CMS Answers American Telemedicine Association’s Call for Telehealth by ACOs

WASHINGTON – Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 – The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) today gratefully acknowledges that after three years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finally answered ATA’s petitions and may soon allow Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to use telehealth to keep their patients healthy.

On Monday, in a 429-page proposed rulemaking, CMS indicated an openness to cover telehealth services under the payment innovation of Medicare’s ACOs.

For several years, ATA has urged the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive certain restrictions on ACOs use of telemedicine, thereby expanding telehealth coverage to the 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who reside in metropolitan areas, and also to all beneficiaries who receive treatment their homes (or in locations other than one of the previously designated types of health facilities).

Many members of Congress have supported such action with three pending bipartisan legislative plans:

  • Sustainable Growth Rate Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act (S. 2000 and H.R. 4015)
  • Telehealth Enhancement Act (S. 2662 and H.R. 3306)
  • Accountable Care Organization Improvement Act (H.R. 5558)

“With their value-oriented incentives, ACOs should be freed of the volume-based restrictions on telehealth under fee-for-service Medicare,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of ATA.  “Similar flexibility to use telehealth by Medicare’s managed care plans should be the new model to improve access, quality and cost of care.”

CMS is currently seeking public comment on the proposed rule (available for viewing here) until early February 2015 on billing and payment for telehealth services. In addition, CMS is also proposing that an ACO describe how it will encourage and promote the use of enabling technologies, such as telehealth, for improving care coordination for Medicare beneficiaries.

CMS reports there are now 330 ACOs in 47 states, providing care to more than 4.9 million beneficiaries. ATA will continue to work with CMS to improve care access through telemedicine technology.

About the American Telemedicine Association

The American Telemedicine Association is the leading international 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, DC.  For more information visit www.americantelemed.org.