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The allure of telemedicine captivates any effort to wring cost savings from the delivery of health care. Offering rural and under-served areas access to physician and other health care professionals via a telephone and video links intuitively seems to offer a likely candidate for cost savings. However, the results of telemedicine trials have been inconclusive.
The full adoption of telemedicine lies with the acceptance of the concept by the largest purchaser of health care services, the federal government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has taken a cautious approach due to conflicting recent studies that offer mixed reviews on the effectiveness of telemedicine.
CQ HealthBeat’s (@CQHealthTweet) Kerry Young reports that Mississippi Republican Rep. Greg Harper, who led a bipartisan effort in support of a telemedicine bill in the last Congress, is discussing the development of new legislation this year. In its current form, the new measure includes a provision that would require CMS’s chief actuary to certify that an expansion of telehealth if it would not result in any increase in net program spending.
Proposals to stem the increase in the cost and improve the efficiency of the delivery of health care services usually include the promotion of telemedicine. A shortage of health care professionals in rural and under served urban areas also makes remote medical visits and services a logical option. The American Telemedicine Association this week released two reports on the state of implementing telemedicine programs in the 50 states. The report cites gaps in coverage and reimbursement policies and state physician practice standards and licensure rules.
HealthBeat’s Kerry Young reported in July that the key to an expansion of telemedicine lies with the adoption of the concept by the largest purchaser of health care services, the federal government. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is taking a cautious approach due to conflicting recent studies that offer mixed reviews on the effectiveness of telemedicine. For this year, CMS has widened the geographic limits that previously restricted remote treatment services and allows telemedicine services reimbursement for 1 million more people enrolled in Medicare.
The HHS inspector general has released a report on Medicare Part B spending for clinical laboratory services. HHS auditors examined lab payments from 2005-10, and despite a 10 percent increase in Medicare enrollment, lab payments increased by 29 percent.