Earlier this week Jonathan Linkous, the CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, proudly announced to the ATA membership that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had approved various requests to expand the list of reimbursement-eligible healthcare services to include remote medical services, testing and, for the first time, non-face-to-face chronic care services. Excited about the new CMS proposals, set to go in effect January 1, 2015, Linkous is gratified that his more than twenty years of advocacy for telemedicine seems to be finally paying off.
This latest success adds to a string of recent victories by ATA to expand telemedicine services – thanks to our staff, our Board and our members. As a result, Medicaid coverage of telemedicine has increased in 20 states guided in part by ATA’s set of best practices for state telehealth programs. Twenty-one states now mandate private insurance coverage, double over the past two years, largely due to our work with such organizations as the NOBEL Women (National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women) and the efforts of many of our members.
Under the CMS proposed rules, psychological testing, psychotherapy, prolonged office visits, annual wellness check ups, and chronic care management are among those services that will be covered if conducted using remote monitoring equipment. The proposals also set forth billing limits for services rendered via telemedicine.
For its part, NOBEL Women and its membership have been on a multi-year, nationwide crusade to improve the quality of care available to people in need of medical assistance through the use of telehealth and telemedicine. In addition to educating its membership about the value and benefits of telemedicine, many of NOBEL Women’s members have followed the model established by Maryland Senator, and President-Elect for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Honorable Catherine Pugh, to bring telehealth and telemedicine legislation to the floor of their various state assemblies.
At a time when chronic but preventable illnesses, like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are at an all-time high in the Black community, telemedicine provides an affordable option for continuous care and treatment, particularly for those who’s geographic or economic situations may prevent them from regularly receiving the kind of medical care they really need in order to treat or improve their conditions.
This latest step by CMS is an important one if we truly want to make healthcare more accessible nationwide.