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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Apr 1 2013   8:41PM GMT

Counties lose Medicare telehealth reimbursments

Posted by: RedaChouffani
ATA, Teleconferencing, telehealth, telemedicine, videoconferencing

Telehealth is not only an area of interest for many, but is furthermore the next logical step to providing health care to patients in some way unable to reach care facilities. It also allows patients to access specialists via videoconferencing services.  This technology has seen significant progress.  It has also seen significant support from many payers, including Medicare.

However, there will be some changes to reimbursement policies for telehealth, changes that may affect adoption and use of these services in certain counties and changes that conflict with previous reports of increased funding for telehealth.

As a result of 2010 census surveys, 97 counties lost rural categorizations. Under the new federal urban/rural law, beneficiaries living in those counties, along with an additional 28 who will now fall under that category, are now ineligible for telehealth benefits through Medicare.

In a press release from the American Telemedicine Association, the following statements were made regarding the change:

”When it comes to telemedicine, Congress has long overlooked the need for telemedicine services to residents of urban counties, despite the fact that they often suffer similar problems accessing healthcare. Now, because of a statistical quirk, even more people will lose coverage of these services, reducing access and care,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association. “Medicare should cover remote health services for all beneficiaries, regardless of location. We call on Congress to ensure that existing beneficiaries will not lose coverage for these services.”

Both Federal and payer support has helped kick start many areas in healthIT, including telehealth services and combating the widespread physician shortage.  While the loss of Medicare reimbursements for 97 counties is a minor setback, videoconferencing and other telemedicine services will continue to grow and improve access to care.

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