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MedPAC Explores Permanent Telehealth Aspects for Alternative Payment Models

Danielle Brown

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

Members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission are in favor of allowing more telehealth flexibilities under alternative payment models — beyond provisions introduced because of the coronavirus public health emergency.

MedPAC commissioners discussed what Medicare telehealth policies to permanently adopt during a virtual meeting Friday, with staff members asking them to weigh in on which flexibilities should remain, Inside Health Policy reported.

Telehealth usage has skyrocketed, especially among senior care, during the pandemic. A recent poll found that one in four seniors had a telemedicine visit in early 2020, compared to just one in 25 in 2019. 

Many feel that expanded telehealth coverage is all but assured after Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma expressed optimism about the concept earlier this year.

“Pandora’s box is open. Telehealth is a core digital strategy for healthcare that will be an expectation from our beneficiaries going forward. So how does MedPAC respond to this watershed moment? I strongly recommend we embrace it,” Susan Thompson, a MedPAC commissioner, said during the meeting.

Commission members were in favor of keeping more telehealth flexibilities in alternative payment models, with hopes that some can assume financial risk for total Medicare spending, according to the report. They also pushed back against keeping audio-only services, like over-the-phone visits, saying they don’t think Medicare could afford the higher rates beyond the pandemic.

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