Insurance-wise, medicare has been one of the most receptive facets of national health care to the adoption of telemedicine. With an increasing number of expected Medicare recipients and seemingly decreasing funds with which to care for them, telemedicine may provide crucial relief for an overburdened system. Telemedicine has particularly been highlighted as an attractive solution for rural health shortages, creating accessible health care for even the most sparsely populated areas of the country.
According to an article published on govhealthit.com, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “is expanding the geographic areas where Medicare will cover telehealth from strictly-defined rural areas, in counties that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, to rural areas defined by the Office of Rural Health Policy — basically expanding coverage into ‘the fringes of metropolitan areas.’”
The expansion in coverage comes on the heels of the realization that “the rural health professional shortage areas used to establish geographic coverage areas for telehealth does not entirely align with the Census-based shortage area classification used for rural health clinic qualification.” These adjustments in coverage will hopefully reduce the number of medicare recipients who would benefit from telemedicine that would otherwise slip through the cracks.
While concern has arisen that the expansion of coverage may lead to an off-putting degree of complexity, the CMS has promised to work hand in hand with the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to streamline the process of determining eligibility for rural health clinics. Though the expansion in coverage is fairly minimal in scope, it still serves as a promising indication of telemedicine’s future within the American health care system.
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