ATA Asks Federal Government to Lift Restrictions on Telehealth for ACO's, Remote Monitoring

WASHINGTON – Wednesday, March 5, 2014 – The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) recently requested the Federal Government lift unnecessary restrictions on healthcare delivery that prohibits millions of Americans from accessing quality medical care.

More specifically, ATA yesterday wrote to Secretary Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to urge she allow Medicare providers paid under alternative payment methods the flexibility to use telehealth as a means to add value for Medicare and its beneficiaries.  Last Friday, ATA submitted similar recommendations to Administrator Tavenner of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding one such specific payment innovations, the Pioneer accountable care organizations (ACOs).

“Due to current restrictions outlined in the telehealth provisions of the Medicare statute 1835(m), providers cannot take advantage of the full capabilities of telemedicine and telehealth due to unnecessary limitations,” said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of ATA. “The current language creates artificial barriers to care including patient location restrictions, communications technology restrictions, and it also defines a narrow list of eligible providers and covered services.”

The Affordable Care Act created a number of value-based alternative payment models to fee-for-service reimbursement under Medicare in order to improve care coordination and reduce costs.  These programs, including accountable-care organizations (ACOs), medical homes, and bundled payments, have not been able to benefit from gains attributed to using telehealth.  Examples of such missed benefits include: a reduction of in-person hospital overuse, such as in emergency rooms and preventable inpatient admissions; relieving provider shortages; improving patient outcomes and quality; and supporting care coordination and population health.

In order to enhance provider participation in these programs and improve outcomes, ATA made two recommendations:

  1. HHS and CMS should waive the Medicare restrictions on telehealth in section 1834(m) for ACOs and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) payment models for bundled acute care and medical homes. 
  2. The agencies should also waive section 1895(e)(1) for these alternative payment methods to allow home telehealth and remote monitoring for “homebound,” Medicare beneficiaries.

For more information on telemedicine public policy, please visit http://www.americantelemed.org/policy/policy-issues#.UxYk4fldU1I

About the American Telemedicine Association
The American Telemedicine Association is the leading resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies. ATA and its diverse membership work to fully integrate telemedicine into healthcare systems to improve quality, equity and affordability of healthcare throughout the world. Established in 1993, ATA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.americantelemed.org.

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