Alliance News2021-05-05T14:08:38-04:00

Federal Government Continues to Push False Narrative Regarding Telehealth Fraud

PUBLIC STATEMENT
May 26, 2021

 Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a statement consistent with the federal government’s record of falsely creating the impression that telehealth is uniquely vulnerable to criminal behavior. No federal regulator or oversight body has yet issued a comprehensive study of telehealth claims during the pandemic, yet the agencies continue to send out charged statements with misleading headlines.

The reality is that the majority of instances of fraud highlighted by DOJ today in its “2021 National COVID-19 Health Care Fraud Takedown” have nothing to do with telehealth. The one case of alleged fraud billed as telehealth-related by the DOJ represents behavior that just as easily occurs in in-person settings.  The HHS OIG has previously clarified that tele-fraud does not constitute telehealth fraud, and that their work to examine telehealth continues.

Over the first eight months of the pandemic, utilization of telehealth services in Medicare FFS sharply increased from about 325,000 services in mid-March to a peak of nearly 1.9 million services in late-April. As people began going back to in-person appointments, utilization of telehealth dropped. In early June there were 1.3 million billed telehealth services and the number of visits declined through mid-October.

These visits represent billions of Medicare dollars appropriately spent on telehealth visits. In today’s notice, DOJ indicates that it has uncovered $550,000 associated with false telehealth claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were associated with a broader scheme related to unnecessary genetic screenings. That represents an impossibly small fraction of a fraction of a percent of the total dollars appropriately spent on care for Medicare beneficiaries – providing treatments necessary during the pandemic, ensuring continued access to primary care, behavioral health, chronic disease management Imagine the secondary health catastrophe we would be facing right now if all Medicare beneficiaries had forgone chronic disease management services for an entire year.

To put these findings into further context, during the 2019 fiscal year, the Federal Government won or negotiated over $2.6 billion in judgments and settlements in health care fraud cases and proceedings. The level of telehealth fraud identified today does not seem to rise to the level of the “National Rapid Response Strike Force.”

Finally, contrary to the popular perception that there are many unscrupulous telehealth providers setting up shop to bilk Medicare, in a large survey conducted by the COVID-19 Taskforce, 83% of seniors saw their own doctor by telehealth. Eight percent saw a doctor in their provider’s practice, and 1.4% saw a provider recommended by their insurer. A mere 1% saw a doctor through an app or online service that they identified themselves. This hardly constitutes telehealth “mills” turning out false claims.

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to support efforts to root out health care fraud across all modalities, including telehealth and virtual care. To date, neither DOJ nor HHS OIG nor any other oversight body has identified a pattern of fraudulent behavior unique to telehealth as a modality of care.

We urge policymakers to read the fine print on these cases and develop interventions that are an appropriate level of response to the fraud challenges identified.

May 26th, 2021|

FAIR Health – Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker

The Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker uses FAIR Health data to track how telehealth is evolving on a monthly basis. Selecting a month and clicking on one of the four US census regions in the map below will display an infographic on telehealth in that month in that region. Clicking on national statistics will display an infographic for the nation as a whole. Each infographic includes a 2019 vs. 2020 comparison for that month of telehealth’s:

  • Volume of claim lines;
  • Urban vs. rural usage;
  • Top five procedure codes; and
  • Top five diagnoses.

One month can be compared to another month, and regional statistics for each month can be compared to national statistics for that month.

View the data here: https://www.fairhealth.org/states-by-the-numbers/telehealth?national-month=apr-2020

May 26th, 2021|

Alliance Statement on the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021

STATEMENT ON THE TELEHEALTH EXPANSION ACT OF 2021
May 19, 2021

WASHINGTON DC – There are more than 35 million Americans with high-deductible health plans coupled with a Health Savings Account (HSAs). More than 50 percent of Americans with HSAs live in zip codes where the median income is below $75,000 annually. Reaching the deductible threshold of $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family is often a financial strain.

Allowing employers to subsidize access to telehealth for employees with HSAs provides meaningful access to health care services before the deductible is met. Through the CARES Act, Congress gave employers the ability to provide free or reduced telehealth services to their employees during the pandemic by creating a telehealth safe harbor from certain high deductible health plan rules.

Today, the Alliance for Connected Care (“The Alliance”) is pleased to support the introduction of the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021 and applauds Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for their leadership in permanently extending the CARES Act authority for employers and health plans to subsidize telehealth visits for individuals with HSAs.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress enabled employers to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services, expanding access to care and reducing out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans,” said Alliance for Connected Care executive director Krista Drobac. “This bill will ensure individuals with HSAs continue to have ready access to virtual-care services while remaining eligible to make and receive contributions to an HSA.”

A full statement can be found here and below:

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May 19th, 2021|

Alliance Statement for the Record to Senate Finance Hearing on COVID-19 Health Care Flexiblities

ALLIANCE FOR CONNECTED CARE STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD

“COVID-19 Health Care Flexibilities: Perspectives, Experiences, and Lessons Learned”

The Alliance submitted a letter to the Senate Finance Committee  on the “COVID-19 Health Care Flexibilities: Perspectives, Experiences, and Lessons Learned.”

The Alliance will focus comments on 1) Research and evidence we have gathered thus far; 2) Recommendations for future telehealth expansion that Congress should consider – including steps to ensure equitable access; and 3) Recommendations for telehealth “guardrail” provisions that Congress should consider to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in the health care system.

While we prefer the implementation of permanent policies described in our recommendations below, the Alliance supports a two-year clean extension of telehealth flexibilities exercised during the COVID-19 pandemic, including 1834(m) Medicare telehealth waivers, a safe harbor for employer-subsidized telehealth for people with Health Savings Account eligible High Deductible Health Plans, and the flexibility for Critical Access Hospitals to continue to bill telehealth as they have during the pandemic. We want policymakers to feel comfortable that access to telehealth services in Medicare will not negatively impact health care quality, or the federal budget. Therefore, we recommend Congress wait to make permanent policy until more peer-reviewed research has been published, government studies – such as the study underway by AHRQ – have been completed, the Office of the Inspector General has examined the level of fraud in telehealth during the Public Health Emergency, and when we have observed what the use of telehealth during “normal times.”

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May 19th, 2021|

Alliance Support Letter for Delaware HB 21 & HB 141

The Alliance submitted a letter of support to Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, Chair of the Delaware House Sunset Committee (Policy Analysis & Government Accountability), for House Bill 21 and House Bill 141.

House Bill 21 would adopt the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact. Under this compact, Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) licensed in a Compact member state may practice in another Compact member state, allowing APRNs to have one multistate license with the ability to practice in all Compact states without having to obtain additional licenses. Its companion bill, House Bill 141, would align the Delaware Board of Nursing statute with the APRN Compact to advance APRN practice through eliminating barriers such as collaborative practice agreements and granting full practice authority in conjunction with licensure to improve access to care for Delaware patients.

The APRN Compact would establish multistate compacts that have reciprocity and that do not require additional licensing, while simultaneously helping to improve patient access to quality health care. Additionally, removing the requirement for collaborative practice agreements for licensure purposes through House Bill 141 would allow APRNs to practice at the top of their licenses, allowing them to use all their education and training to care for patients.

Read the full letter here and below:

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May 2nd, 2021|

Alliance Statement for the Record to House Ways & Means Committee Hearing on Telehealth

ALLIANCE FOR CONNECTED CARE STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD

“Charting the Path Forward for Telehealth”

The Alliance submitted a letter to the House Ways & Means Committee, Subcommittee on Health on the “Charting the Path Forward for Telehealth.”

The Alliance provided: 1) recommendations for telehealth expansions that Congress should consider – including steps to ensure equitable access, 2) comments about telehealth research and evidence, and 3) recommendations for telehealth “guardrail” provisions that Congress could consider, if it is believed they are necessary.

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April 28th, 2021|

Alliance Support Letter for Missouri SB 193

The Alliance submitted a letter of support to Senator Bob Onder, the Chair of the Missouri Senate Committee on Health and Pensions, for Senate Bill 193.

This legislation would remove geographic proximity requirements in collaborative practice arrangements between physicians and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) based in rural health clinics. The bill would also allow APRNs providing nursing services under a collaborative practice arrangement to provide such services outside the geographic proximity requirement if the collaborating physician and APRN utilize telehealth in the care of the patient and if the services are provided in a rural area located in a health professional shortage area.

The Alliance believes that eliminating geographic proximity requirements, especially for telehealth services, will significantly improve access to care for patients. Such barriers often delay care to patients, especially in rural underserved areas where there are often provider shortages and where APRNs are predominant in the state of Missouri.

Read the full letter here and below:

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April 25th, 2021|

Alliance Support Letter for Missouri SB 584

The Alliance submitted a letter of support to Senator Jeanie Riddle, the Chair of the Missouri Senate Committee on Professional Registration, for Senate Bill 584.

The bill would repeal the requirement under current law that supervised practice of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) under a collaborative practice arrangement by a collaborating physician occur for a one-month period of time. The bill would also repeal the requirement that an APRN can only provide telehealth services in rural areas of need in order to practice telehealth services outside the geographic proximity requirements of a collaborative practice agreement.

The Alliance believes that eliminating geographic proximity requirements, especially for telehealth services, will significantly improve access to care for patients. Such barriers often delay care to patients, especially in rural underserved areas where there are often provider shortages and where APRNs are predominant in the state of Missouri.

Read the full letter here and below:

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April 25th, 2021|

2021 Telehealth Summit for Health Systems

Thanks to those who were able to join the Alliance for Connected Care for the virtual Telehealth Summit for Health Systems on April 22-23, 2021. 

The Alliance for Connected Care held its virtual Telehealth Summit for Health Systems on April 22-23, 2021. Attendees heard from federal policymakers from the White House and Congress on policy issues related to telehealth and virtual care, and participated in Breakout Sessions led by health system executives around the following topics: consumer engagement in virtual care, post-pandemic licensure portability, hardwiring virtual care transformation, and improving access across the digital and social divide. This recording includes opening remarks made by speakers on the first day of the Summit.

Slides from the opening session, entitled “A Pivotal Moment for Telehealth & RPM Policy: A Look Ahead to 2021,” can be found here.  

Please note: Only Day 1 of the Summit from 11:30 – 1:30pm ET was open to the press.  The Breakout Sessions were interactive working sessions and were considered off the record. As such, recordings and slides from the Breakout Sessions will not be made available.

Please contact Casey Osgood at casey.osgood@connectwithcare.org with any questions.

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Date: Thursday, April 22 – Friday, April 23, 2021

Time: 11:30am – 2:30pm EST

April 22nd, 2021|

COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition: Telehealth Impact Study: Patient Survey Executive Summary

COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition: Telehealth Impact Study: Patient Survey Executive Summary

Telehealth use, which surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, has provided a way for patients to continue to receive care while remaining safe in their homes. To explore patients’ experiences with telehealth, the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition recently conducted a survey of 2,007 patients across the country who received at least one telehealth visit during the pandemic. The findings of the Telehealth Impact Study highlight high levels of satisfaction with telehealth services, the impact on the patient-physician relationship, and expectations for future use.

Topline findings show strong patient support for telehealth, including:

  • 78% felt their health concern could be addressed via telehealth
  • 78% said they received telehealth service from their own provider
  • 76% indicated that telehealth removed transportation as a barrier
  • 79% reported they found it easy to use the technology
  • 83% felt patient-physician communication was strong
  • 79% said they were satisfied with their telehealth visit
  • 83% reported good overall visit quality
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April 13th, 2021|
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