Telemed advocates win Medicare triumphDepending on your vantage point, the Medicare reimbursement legislation adopted by Congress last month is either a major victory for the telemedicine industry, or little more than symbolism. The reality is that, like much of life, it is somewhere in between.
The absence of a policy on Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine has been one of the greatest barriers to full development of this industry. And the fact that the Health Care Financing Administration has been dragging its feet on this issue for too long has not helped the situation at all. If anything, it has made matters worse by enabling private insurers to waffle as well.
To top it all off, most telemedicine projects are in the process of being weaned off the federal grants that got them up and running. The growing consensus on Capitol Hill-minus the folks at HCFA, of course-is that enough demonstrations have taken place, and enough data have been analyzed. It's time now for the U.S. to turn telemedicine into an economically viable industry.
But that industry has been stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And then suddenly, as seldom happens anywhere but in the movies, people joined forces, their representatives heard their pleas, and the resistance was overturned-if not for the good of all, at least for those Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas.
Hats off to the American Telemedicine Association, the Joint Working Group on Telemedicine, and countless others who were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation through Congress.
-By Kathy Kincade, Contributing Editor