reimbursement

TELEHEALTH PARITY LAWS: THE REAL STORY

Posted by Rene Quashie on September 06, 2017
Healthcare, Medicaid, Telehealth, Telemedicine / No Comments

State telehealth parity laws, which generally require private payers (and occasionally Medicaid programs) to cover telehealth services if those services would be covered if provided in-person, have long been trumpeted as a means to increase telehealth acceptance.  The argument is simple: given how the availability of health care services is usually directly tied to whether (and how) payers cover a particular service, laws that require payers to cover telehealth services should drive utilization.  A recently published report, however, questions the impact these laws have on telehealth utilization.

The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), the federally funded national telehealth resource center, conducted a five-month study to analyze state telehealth parity laws and the impact these laws may have on telehealth utilization.  In an interesting twist, the report’s authors also interviewed health plan executives to gain insight into how plans cover and reimburse telehealth services, and the issues preventing greater telehealth utilization.  The report should be required reading for all telehealth stakeholders seeking to understand the telehealth reimbursement landscape.

Here are some key general highlights:

  • As of September 2016, 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed telehealth private payer laws.
  • How a parity law is drafted can determine “the expansiveness of reimbursement and can predict telehealth utilization.”
  • Inclusion/exclusion of certain language may create barriers to telehealth utilization by allowing payers to limit the types of services that may be reimbursed.
  • Only 3 states have laws that explicitly require payment parity (meaning payers in these states have to reimburse for telehealth at the same rate as they pay for in-person services).
  • Live video is the modality most often referenced in the parity statutory definition of telehealth. Approximately 70 percent of state parity laws reference store-and-forward, and about 55 percent include references to remote patient monitoring.
  • Only 4 states and the District of Columbia include a site limitation in their parity laws.
  • Unlike the Medicare program, parity laws usually do not include explicit exclusions regarding types of services, types of providers, and geographic locations.

Payer Interviews

As I mentioned, the report’s authors interviewed commercial plan executives, medical officers, and other plan representatives in six states (CA, MS, MT, OK, TX, and VA), resulting in a compelling look into how commercial payers view telehealth.  For plans not participating in interviews, CCHP conducted research regarding their telehealth policies.  Some points to highlight from the interviews:

  • The majority of selected plans only reimbursed for live video. Some plans provide limited reimbursement for store-and-forward, but only for certain specialties.
  • Remote patient monitoring is not being reimbursed by any of the payers that were part of the study.
  • The majority of interviewees confirmed that their plans reimbursed telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services.

Plan interviewees also noted that, notwithstanding the increase in state parity laws, telehealth utilization is generally low.  Among the reasons provided:

  • Patients are reluctant to use telehealth, although once they try it, many respond positively.
  • Patients have a preference to see physicians and other providers in-person.
  • Providers are reluctant to use telehealth for a number of reasons ranging from lack of training, skepticism regarding telehealth, or concerns that they could lose business by providing telehealth.
  • Lack of education and awareness regarding the availability and efficacy of telehealth.

Medicaid

CCHP also spoke with Medicaid representatives and concluded that private payer laws have little impact on Medicaid telehealth policies unless the laws explicitly include Medicaid.  The Medicaid representatives also noted that providers face significant challenges in implementing telehealth programs, including the cost of equipment and billing issues.

Moving Forward

While the report acknowledges the promise of telehealth, CCHP concludes that many obstacles remain, including what it describes as “a broad misconception that, because telehealth private payer laws are in place in many states around the country, telehealth is achieving its promise of providing the same patient benefit and payment as in-person care.” Specifically, the report warns that parity laws “have been weakened by their lack of clarity and often contain clauses that may negate much of the intent of the legislation.”  The report encourages more careful drafting of laws and a more comprehensive implementation plan.  CCHP concludes by asking policymakers to consider, among other things, the following steps:

  • Using explicit language in private payer laws.
  • Ensuring that payment or reimbursement parity language is included in the language of these laws assuming it is the intent of policymakers to have telehealth reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services.
  • Developing a comprehensive Medicaid telehealth policy.

Conclusion

I believe the report is significant for two reasons.  First, it dispels the notion that the existence of state parity laws alone will drive greater telehealth utilization.  As the report makes clear, some of this is due to poorly drafted laws in some states—but I believe that much of the disconnect between parity laws and telehealth utilization is tied to broader issues regarding telehealth utilization generally. The lack of knowledge and education on the part of consumers regarding telehealth, for example, is as big a stumbling block as any other. Second, it appears that while plans have bought into the benefits of telehealth they are cautious regarding how to drive utilization. The report points out that most plans prefer a slower approach to telehealth expansion and favor using methods such as pilot projects to assess potential expansion.

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CMS and ACOs: A Busy Summer and a Busier Fall

Posted by Chris Raphaely on August 05, 2014
ACA, Accountable Care Organizations, Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, HITECH, Medicare, Privacy / No Comments

 

It has been a busy summer so far for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with respect to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), as the agency has proposed altering the quality reporting measures under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (“MSSP”) for 2015 and beyond.  Expect an even busier fall as other, potentially broader, proposed rule changes for ACOs are analyzed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and both sets of proposals wind their way through the public comment process.

The proposed changes concerning quality reporting would revise and update the measures used to evaluate MSSP ACOs’ performance. Overall, the CMS says it would like to focus more on outcome-based measures (as opposed to process-based measures), reduce duplicative measures, and reflect current clinical practices without increasing ACO’s reporting burden.

More specifically, the CMS proposes to add 12 new measures and remove eight, which would increase the total number of quality measures from 33 to 37. The new measures relate to “avoidable” admissions for patients with multiple chronic conditions, heart failure, and diabetes; depression readmission; readmissions to skilled nursing facilities; patient discussion of prescription costs; and updated composite measures for diabetes and coronary artery disease.

The CMS would like to modify the scoring system to award bonus points toward shared savings to ACOs that make year-over-year improvements on individual measures. Moreover, the agency would like to modify its benchmarking methodology to use flat percentages to establish the benchmark for a measure when the national FSS data results in the 90th percentile being greater than or equal to 95 percent. And, finally, the CMS proposes several ways to align MSSP reporting requirements with other reporting programs, including Medicare’s Electronic Health Records Incentive Program and the Physician Quality Reporting System.

Fewer details are available about the next set of proposed rules changes, which were submitted to OMB on June 26 and will be printed in the Federal Register after review. It is expected that these regulations will include changes to the MSSP’s payment provisions. The proposed changes would apply to existing ACOs and approved ACO applicants starting January 1, 2016. As soon as the text of the rule becomes publicly available, the Health Law Informer will provide more information.

Chris Raphaely

Chris Raphaely

R. Christopher Raphaely joined Cozen O'Connor's Philadelphia office in 2014 as co-chair of the Health Care Practice Group. Chris joins the firm from Jefferson Health System, where he served as deputy general counsel and general counsel to the system’s accountable care organization and captive professional liability insurance companies.

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ACOs and Pay for Value … All About the Data

Posted by Chris Raphaely on July 24, 2014
Accountable Care Organizations, Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, Privacy / No Comments

It has been over three years since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its proposed rule and guidance on the development and implementation of Accountable Care Organizations.  About four million Medicare beneficiaries are now in an ACO, and over 400 provider groups are participating in ACOs.  See February 19, 2013 Health Affairs Blog. An estimated 14% of the U.S. population is being treated within an ACO. See April 16, 2014 Kaiser Health News.

By all indications, these numbers will continue to grow as the US health system moves away from the fee-for-service model to pay for value models that reward quality and cost savings and require clinical coordination among different types of providers, in many cases providers who are unrelated other than through an ACO or other similar arrangement.  The seamless sharing of data, patient information and collaboration among large, medium and small physician practices, hospitals, post-acute providers, and even private companies like pharmacy chains is critical to the success of these organizations. Continue reading…

Chris Raphaely

Chris Raphaely

R. Christopher Raphaely joined Cozen O'Connor's Philadelphia office in 2014 as co-chair of the Health Care Practice Group. Chris joins the firm from Jefferson Health System, where he served as deputy general counsel and general counsel to the system’s accountable care organization and captive professional liability insurance companies.

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The American Medical Association Releases New Telemedicine Recommendations

Posted by Ryan Blaney on July 09, 2014
Telemedicine / No Comments

Recently, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a report on telemedicine (Report) that, among other things, (i) outlines coverage and payment rules; (ii) summarizes various specialty society practice guidelines/position statements; and (iii) presents its own position and recommendations regarding the role of telemedicine in the provision of health care. The Report provides a current overview of barriers (e.g., reimbursement and licensure) that prevent further implementation of telemedicine in the provision of health care in our society, and it also emphasizes the importance of ensuring quality of care, patient safety, and coordination of care. The AMA’s publication of this Report will hopefully continue the important dialogue regarding the promise of telemedicine.

Look for an upcoming more detailed client alert analyzing this Report, other updates concerning telemedicine, and the general role of telemedicine in our healthcare system.

Ryan Blaney

Ryan Blaney

Ryan Blaney joined Cozen O'Connor as a member of the firm's Health Law group. Ryan practices in the firm's Washington, D.C., office. He focuses his practice on representing clients in the health care and life sciences industries in a wide range of matters, including health care fraud and abuse, civil and criminal government investigations, qui tam and whistle-blower disputes under the False Claims Act and other federal and state laws and regulations, HIPAA privacy and data security, compliance and transactional services, and antitrust matters.

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