Medicaid: Briefing on Telehealth’s Role

The Medicaid program is responsible for an estimated 20 percent of Americans. Today, telehealth and other factors will continue to play an important role in determining access to care, delivery of care, and the fiscal challenges affecting the Medicaid population.

A briefing on Capitol Hill presented by the American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) www.americantelemed.org “Telehealth Capitol Connection” (TCC) series held November 14, 2017, brought together experts to give their ideas on how the National Governors Association (NGA), Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and the Medicaid Health Plans of America association are effectively utilizing telehealth and what could and should be done to increase the use of telehealth in the Medicaid patient population.

Cybil Roehrenbeck, JD, Posinelli law firm, moderated a conversation with the leaders in the field related to issues specifically involving state Medicaid concerns. Lauren Block, Program Director, NGA’s, Center for Best Practices, Health Division https://www.nga.org/cms/center/health, reports how states are now using telehealth technologies especially in rural communities.

The goal for NGA’s Center for Best Practices is to provide unbiased information and data to enable Governors to be able to meet the challenges and find ways to best deliver healthcare especially in rural areas, how to break down silos, and finally, how to move rapidly beyond theory.

Last spring, NGA announced that Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania will be participating in learning collaboratives to identify and implement strategies to improve access to high quality and cost effective healthcare in rural America.

Lauren Block said, “Vital issues include dealing with rural hospital closures, integrating behavioral health into primary care plus in communities, dealing with workforce shortages, how to effectively utilize telehealth and telemedicine within the healthcare system, and importantly, address Medicaid and federal issues that relate to reimbursement for telehealth.

Emily Moore, Senior Analyst for Health Transformation, at ASTHO www.astho.org commented on how ASTHO is addressing a number of public health services related to states. This includes assessing state needs, monitoring healthcare requirements in states, educating communities, enforcing laws, and how telehealth could be used further to really help state public health agencies in a major way.

She suggests that important discussions need to be held on medication adherence, emergency preparedness, how to properly utilizing remote patient monitoring not only for the general population but importantly for the elderly population, plus how to continue educating and counseling patients on various issues related to their chronic healthcare needs.

She pointed out that ASTHO provides the States with technical assistance for their specific needs. The technical assistance provides cross-state learning on topics such as legislation and policy, financing, strategic planning, and coalition building. Today, these states utilizing the assistance include Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Arkansas.

In developing innovative ideas to meet the needs to develop solutions to the substance abuse concern in states. ASTHO plans to launch a virtual technology assistance series where experts will be assembled to discuss complex health priorities such as substance misuse and addiction.

Concluding the discussion, Alexander Shekhdar Vice President, Policy, for the Medicaid Health Plans of America (MHPA) www.nedicaidplans.org, described how 134 commercial and nonprofit plans serving more than 20 million Medicaid enrollees in 39 states are helped by MHPA using the advocacy and research needed to support policy solutions for Medicaid enrollees.

A major issue affecting Medicaid beneficiaries relates to how their eligibility can change according to income, how to provide primary care providers in Health Professional Shortage Areas, variations in state Medicaid plans to cover the use of telemedicine, and the changes needed to provide adequate broadband access.

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