According to a press release from the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), Medicare beneficiaries in 97 counties, across 36 states and territories, will lose telemedicine benefits because of the updated federal delineations of Standards Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSAs). The SMSAs are federal urban/rural categorizations which, the ATA says, revokes the option for Medicare recipients to receive healthcare services via videoconferencing.
The SMSA adjustments have added designate 28 additional counties as “non-metropolitan,” which allows those residents to qualify for telemedicine. However since telemedicine isn’t covered in metropolitan areas, where more than 80 percent of all Medicare recipients live, the new adjustments are also an increase in the total amount of people that are prohibited from the benefits of telemedicine.
”When it comes to telemedicine, Congress has long overlooked the need for telemedicine services to residents of urban counties, despite the fact that they often suffer similar problems accessing healthcare. Now, because of a statistical quirk, even more people will lose coverage of these services, reducing access and care,” Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, said in a statement. “Medicare should cover remote health services for all beneficiaries, regardless of location. We call on Congress to ensure that existing beneficiaries will not lose coverage for these services.”
The effort to increase rural telemedicine coverage was the recent focus of Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD). The pair of senators introduced legislation which they hope can create pilot programs that will provide incentives to home health agencies across the country to use remote patient monitoring (RPM).
The list of counties that will lose these benefits can be found here.