On May 11, 2018, the VA published a final rule, allowing VA care providers to see patients via telehealth, no matter where the patient or doctor are located. This is a significant step forward in eliminating barriers to telehealth services for veterans. Telehealth services are sometimes limited by patient and/or doctor location - such as only allowing for telehealth services from approved sites, instead of letting patients connect from their own homes. Removing this limitation makes accessing telehealth services much easier.
Due to expanded health insurance coverage, reduced stigma, and better awareness, more and more Americans are seeking mental health services. However, the number of psychiatrists available to provide these services has not grown significantly. This growth in demand, without a corresponding growth in supply, has negatively impacted healthcare access to psychiatric care, especially in rural areas. Telehealth can help address this need.
The Preventive Health Savings Act (S. 2164 and H B. 2953), introduced last year, includes an important component related to telehealth. If passed, the Preventive Health Savings Act could lead to increased Medicare coverage for preventive health services delivered via telehealth.
Early last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their final 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018. Included in these changes are new billing codes, expanding the telemedicine services paid for by Medicare. Providers can now specifically bill for telehealth services, such as health risk assessments, care planning for chronic conditions, and crisis-related psychotherapy.
New Report from Center for Connected Health Policy Shows Progress Towards Increased Telehealth Reimbursement
This month the Center for Connected Health Policy released their report, State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies: A Comprehensive Scan of the 50 States and District of Columbia. Although this report focuses primarily on Medicaid, the trends are consistent with those in the larger industry. Perhaps most notably, Medicaid is becoming less restrictive regarding telehealth reimbursement.