Bi-Partisan Bill Seeks to Waive Restrictions on Telemedicine

Question: What is the potential impact of the new bi-partisan bill that covers telemedicine?
Answer: Representatives Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) co-sponsored a bill that aims to amend rules governing Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (“ACOs”). Among the changes, the bi-partisan bill seeks waivers of certain restrictions on the use of telemedicine. The bill would reduce regulatory burdens for ACOs by waiving the telehealth “site-of-service” requirements. The amendment has long been lobbied for by multiple organizations, most notably the American Medical Group Association. The AMGA released a statement in response to the proposed bill’s suggested policy changes, calling them a “positive step that will improve the long term viability of the Medicare Shared Savings Program.” Other organizations have come out saying that the bill will lead to better care coordination through improved access to both telehealth services and remote patient monitoring. Other key provisions of the bill include a waiver of the three-day prior hospitalization requirement for coverage of skilled-nursing facility services and a waiver of the homebound requirement for coverage of home health services. This bill comes on the heels of commercial health plans’ changing views concerning telehealth. Insurers are now beginning to see telehealth as a way to increase convenience and control costs. Similarly, states are starting to implement more laws requiring parity of coverage with office visits. Industry experts estimate that approximately 32 states will have telehealth laws in effect by 2017. With telemedicine moving towards nation-wide implementation and coverage, practices should be mindful of not only state laws governing the practice, but their states’ medical boards’ restrictions and oversight of same.

Weekly Charting Tip:

With the prevalent use of EMR, you tend to stare into the computer screen, typing, while talking with your patient. Your patient finds this disconcerting. Additionally, you are losing the face to face contact that often reveals so much about your patient. It has the effect of reducing the bond between doctor and patient. Next time, pause between entering in patient information on the monitor, and just talk with your patient. Both you and the patient will find it so much more rewarding! 

Until next week, Larry Kobak, Esq.

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