As part of its efforts to advance care that rewards value over volume, HHS recently announced it will be partnering with CMS to create a Next Generation ACO that will take on more risk and possibly share more savings. But also of interest is a small nugget of information buried in that press release. “ACOs will have a number of tools available to enhance the management of care for their beneficiaries. These tools include…modifications to expand the coverage of telehealth.” This means that organizations that join a Next Generation ACO will be able to receive reimbursement for telemedicine visits that occur in the home and in urban areas. In the Pioneer ACO, visits had to occur within hospitals and were restricted to rural areas. This is the first time the HHS Secretary is choosing to waive the old telemedicine requirements despite having the previous authority to do so. The American Telemedicine Association is happy that the door to broader use of telemedicine is ajar and they are poised to swing it open. If the expanded use of telemedicine services by Medicare ACOs spreads to the larger Medicare population, it will surely lead to an increase in the availability and quality of telehealth offerings in the future.
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