Patient Safety | 05.28.21
GAO Tells Congress to Wait on Expanding Telehealth Coverage Past the Pandemic
More data is needed to determine whether to permanently expand telehealth coverage for Medicare and Medicaid programs beyond the pandemic, states the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Representatives from the government watchdog wrote in a recent report that connected health services have been key to expanding access to care during the pandemic. However, the overall effect of those new services on factors such as cost and clinical outcomes is not yet known. "The quality of telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries has not yet been fully analyzed, and evidence from the few existing studies is inconclusive," said the report. "According to [the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission], some researchers have concluded that, in addition to increasing access to care, telehealth can also improve the quality of care.” Other researchers caution the convenience of telehealth could harm the quality of patient care. Since early 2020, CMS has issued over 230 Medicare waivers that helped to expand telehealth coverage by enabling more providers to use the platform. While some of those waivers have been made permanent, the majority will end when the COVID-19 crisis ends.
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