Medicare Reimbursements for Telehealth Totaled $14M in 2014

In 2014, Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services totaled $13.9 million, according to new CMS data, Becker's Health IT & CIO Review reports.

Payment Details

The data, which was provided to the Robert J. Waters Center for Telehealth and eHealth Law, showed:

  • More than $12.48 million in reimbursements can be attributed to provider fees -- the location of telehealth provider; and
  • More than $1.45 million can be attributed to originating site fees -- the location of the patient (Jayanthi, Becker's Health IT & CIO Review, 5/11).

Overall, the data showed that reimbursement for such services have increased steadily since 2008 (CTel blog, 5/8).

In total, Medicare has reimbursed more than $57.6 million for telehealth coverage since 2001, according to the data. That is lower than the estimated $150 million cost to CMS over five years that the Congressional Budget Office predicted in 2001 (Becker's Health IT & CIO Review, 5/11).

In a statement, Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White expressed disappointment about the lack of resources spent on "providing valuable telehealth services to seniors."

White said, "The fact that in 2014 Medicare reimbursed $14 million for telehealth services out of a total of approximately $615 billion ... reflects the low priority placed on telehealth by Congress."

Meanwhile, he encouraged lawmakers "to work to remove current barriers to telehealth services under Medicare," such as by:

  • Addressing interstate medical licensure; and
  • Varying telehealth reimbursement levels (Health IT Now release, 5/11).

In related news, stakeholders during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing last week encouraged lawmakers to maintain federal funding for rural telehealth programs, Health Data Management reports.

At the hearing, Kristi Henderson -- chief telehealth and innovation office at the University of Mississippi Medical Center -- said that such programs help improve outcomes and lower costs.

According to Henderson, UMMC's Center for Telehealth -- which was funded in part by $9.7 million federal grants -- helped reduce:

  • Emergency department staffing costs by 25%; and
  • Unnecessary transfers by 20%.

She said that while the program is now "self-sustaining," it "would have been very slow to deploy, if ever," without the "critical support" from the federal government.

Henderson noted that some barriers still remain and asked that "CMS consider removing geographic restrictions for telehealth reimbursement" (Goedert, Health Data Management, 5/12).

Source: iHealthBeat, Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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