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September 24, 2015

NPAF Encourages Telehealth Services for Patients with Transportation Needs

2015-09-24 | September 8, 2015

(Washington, DC) Citing lack of transportation as one of the top concerns of the patients served by the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), the National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand telehealth services as an important way to ensure that patients get the care they need.

In a proposed rule, CMS suggested further evaluating whether certain health services can be properly provided via telehealth delivery and proposed adding two services– prolonged service in the inpatient setting and end-stage renal disease-related services for home dialysis– to the current list of telehealth services eligible for Medicare reimbursement.

NPAF applauded these measures, but also strongly urged CMS to evaluate and expand the list of Medicare telehealth services beyond its current scope.

“Transportation to medical care was the most common issue reported to PAF case management by patients in 2014, and constitutes one of the most significant barriers to accessing care,” said George Dahlman, NPAF Executive Vice President.  “As such, NPAF has placed transportation policy as one of its top priorities for the upcoming year, and we see telehealth access and reimbursement as a cornerstone of that endeavor.”

NPAF has long advocated for the use and expansion of reimbursable telehealth services as appropriate, as these services can provide beneficiaries– especially those in rural areas– access to necessary care, particularly from specialists.

“Of course telehealth is best used in conjunction with, rather than in lieu of, seeing their regular doctor, it can really help patients with follow-up appointments that may have otherwise been missed because of transportation requirements. As telemedicine becomes an increasingly important portal for doctors and other providers to stay connected with patients, broader use of this service will improve outcomes and lower costs.”

Along with these remarks, NPAF also made the following points in response to the proposed rule, “Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2016”:

  • NPAF supported CMS’ prioritization of the development and implementation of several initiatives that will improve the accuracy of payment for, and encourage long-term investment in, care management services.
  • NPAF urged CMS to ensure that the patient is always involved and in agreement with the course of treatment discussed in interpersonal consultations and asked that CMS develop appropriate beneficiary protections to ensure that the patient is fully aware of the involvement of the specialist in the patient’s care and the associated benefits of the collaboration between the primary care physician and hte specialist, prior to being billed for the service.
  • NPAF supported the use of certified electronic health record technology that is interoperable and devoid of barriers to data sharing that would be required for care coordination.
  • NPAF applauded the CMS proposal to pay Medicare physicians for conducting advance care planning discussions with their patients, citing the urgent need for all individuals to participate actively in their health care decisions throughout their life.
  • NPAF challenged the CMS proposal to group all biosimilar drugs for the same reference product to the same payment calculation and billing code, averring that the rule would create confusion among providers and payers, and could cause patients to receive the least expensive of the available products rather than the one that is best for their condition.
  • NPAF commended the Physician Compare website, which provides public information on physician performance based on quality measures and patient experience measures.

The full text of the comment letter can be found on the NPAF website.