FTC asks CMS to lift telehealth access, reimbursement restrictions permanently

The Federal Trade Commission sent a letter May 29 to CMS in support of broad access to telehealth for beneficiaries permanently. 

During the pandemic, CMS updated its policies to allow all beneficiaries access to covered audio and video calls for telehealth purposes, expanded services covered for telehealth and increased the reimbursement rate for virtual visits. The changes were made on a temporary basis to extend through the COVID-19 crisis, but many, including the FTC, hope to see them on a permanent basis.

Telehealth can reduce roadblocks to care for older adults across both rural and urban settings, including urban areas where underserved populations have provider shortages, states the FTC in the letter. Medicare beneficiaries also often have limited mobility, and telehealth can help them access their care team more easily.

"Telehealth can potentially increase the supply of accessible practitioners and thereby enhance price and non-price competition, reduce transportation expenditures and improve access and choice of quality care," states the letter. "Many experts consider reducing restrictions on Medicare reimbursement of telehealth services especially important for fulfilling telehealth's potential, not only because Medicare places substantial limitations on using telehealth services, but also because Medicare influences the reimbursement policies of state Medicaid programs and private payers."

The FTC also supports CMS continuing to cover audio-only telehealth visits and eliminate the direct supervision of non-physician practitioners in non-institutional settings.

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