Roll Call: Medicare cost crunch raises questions in telehealth debate

Lawmakers in both chambers are starting to move, but signs point to a limited extension of current flexibilities as the most likely outcome. The health panels of both the House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce committees recently held hearings on the topic, and Senate Finance Committee leaders are also having discussions.

The enthusiasm is tempered by cost concerns stemming from the Congressional Budget Office’s historical view that telehealth increases the use of services and therefore spending. The HHS Office of Inspector General also stepped up enforcement against telemarketing schemes involving medical equipment, lab tests and prescription drugs last year, which totaled billions in losses to Medicare and patients.

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, voiced those concerns during a hearing on April 28. Doggett plans to introduce a bill temporarily extending the current waivers to allow experts to further study the data, in line with recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. He also voiced support for requiring in-person visits for orders of expensive medical equipment or tests.

“With Medicare representing the primary subject jurisdiction of this health subcommittee, we are the stewards of Medicare with a special responsibility to protect both vulnerable beneficiaries and taxpayers from telehealth fraud schemes,” Doggett said in his opening statement. “Schemes which predated the pandemic and are not all that dissimilar from fraud that has impacted traditional health care delivery.”

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News Credit

Author: Lauren Clason

Publisher: Roll Call

Date: May 12, 2021