Verizon, WellPoint, CVS, Walgreens Ally with Former Senators to Push Telehealth Policy Reform

A cohort of big players in connected health are joining three former senators in pursuit of policy that supports broad use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring.

Former U.S. Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), along with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), are heading up the Alliance for Connected Care, which launches today.

With the help of board members including Verizon, WellPoint, CVS, Walgreens, Teladoc and HealthSpot, the goal is to advocate for better access to and reimbursement for care delivered remotely.

The American Telemedicine Association says half of all hospitals use some form of telemedicine today. The Veterans Affairs Department has been somewhat of a pioneer, investing $500 million last year on technology to enable remote care of veterans.

The regulatory environment has come a long way, too. Twenty states and Washington D.C. require private insurers to cover telehealth services, and most states permit Medicaid to cover it, too.

But Medicare, which covers about 16 percent of the U.S. population, only reimburses for it in certain geographic areas. The Senate Finance Committee is currently exploring physician payment reform that includes provisions related to telehealth pilots and reimbursement.

Numerous case studies and pilots have shown promise for remote care in managing chronically ill patients, preventing unnecessary emergency room visits and lowering cost of care. But many advocates believe that the regulatory and reimbursement barriers are keeping telemedicine from mainstream adoption.

According to the alliance’s website, it will work to demonstrate connected care as a tool for improved quality and efficiency, lift geographic restrictions for Medicare reimbursement and build support among policymakers and thought leaders.

It’s interesting to see the inclusion of the large retail pharmacies in the alliance. Last year, Rite Aid made a big push in telemedicine services, and it looks like its competitors aren’t far behind.

Rounding out the alliance are associate members WelchAllyn, MDLive, Doctor on Demand, Care Innovations and Cardinal Health.

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