MedPAC: Go Slow on Expanding Medicare Telehealth

MedPAC wants Medicare to test the impact of telehealth on health care under non-COVID-19 conditions before moving forward with expanding the tool’s use in the Medicare population.

In a news release accompanying its recently released annual report to Congress on Medicare payment policy, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission writes that

In the report, we present a policy option for expanded coverage for Medicare telehealth policy after the PHE is over. Under the policy option, policymakers should temporarily continue some of the telehealth expansions for a limited duration of time (e.g., one to two years after the PHE) to gather more evidence about the impact of telehealth on beneficiary access to care, quality of care, and program spending to inform any permanent changes. During this limited period, Medicare should temporarily pay for specified telehealth services provided to all beneficiaries regardless of their location, and it should continue to cover certain newly-covered telehealth services and certain audio-only telehealth services if there is potential for clinical benefit.

The policy option also specifies that after the PHE ends, Medicare should return to paying the physician fee schedule’s facility rate for telehealth services and collect data on the cost of providing those services. In addition, providers should not be allowed to reduce or waive beneficiary cost sharing for telehealth services after the PHE. CMS should also implement other safeguards to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries from unnecessary spending and potential fraud related to telehealth.

While MedPAC’s recommendations to Congress are not binding on the administration, its work is highly respected and it is considered influential in the development of Medicare reimbursement policy.

Learn more about what MedPAC has to say about telehealth services and other aspects of Medicare payment policy in this MedPAC news release and the MedPAC’s newly released Report to the Congress:  Medicare Payment Policy.