Business Leaders, Healthcare Stakeholders Urge Congress to Support Audio-only Telehealth | #healthcare | #elderly | #seniors
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Harvard Pilgrim, Ascension, and others back audio-only Medicare Advantage bill.
A group of 33 business leaders and healthcare stakeholders have signed on to a letter urging Congress to support legislation allowing the use of audio-only telehealth for Medicare Advantage risk adjustments.
The bipartisan Ensuring Parity in Medicare Advantage for Audio-Only Telehealth Act of 2021, sponsored by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would protect continuity of care for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing the use of audio-only telehealth for risk adjustment purposes.
The House bill would also allow audio-only telehealth visits for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organizations.
“It is essential that the collection of diagnoses required for risk adjustment be as complete and as accurate as possible,” the letter said. “Action by Congress now will … provide relief necessary for Medicare Advantage and PACE organizations, allowing them to continue to provide high quality, affordable care to millions of Medicare beneficiaries.”
A study published last August in JAMA Internal Medicine found that 41% of Medicare beneficiaries lacked access to a computer with a highspeed internet connection in their home, and that 41% didn’t have a smartphone with a wireless data plan. More than one in four (26.3%) of beneficiaries had neither form of digital access.
Those numbers worsened depending upon the beneficiaries’ socioeconomic groups, with half (50.9%) of beneficiaries with an income of 100% below federal poverty level lacking digital access, compared with 11.5% of beneficiaries with income 400% or more above the federal poverty level.
Led by the Better Medicare Alliance, the letter’s cosigners include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ascension, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Northwell Health, SummaCare, UPMC Health Plan, the American Physical Therapy Association, LeadingAge, and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America.
Better Medicare Alliance President and CEO Allyson Y. Schwartz noted that “telehealth has been a lifeline for older Americans amid COVID-19, but challenges persist.”
“Limited access to broadband internet, financial constraints, and functional limitations are real barriers for many vulnerable Medicare Advantage beneficiaries,” she said. “Use of audio-only telehealth brings greater equity during the COVID-19 response, as it ensures all seniors have the opportunity to use virtual care options that meet their needs.”
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.