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New Group Lobbies for More Telehealth, mHealth in Medicaid Programs

HealthTech4Medicaid (HT4M), comprised of roughly 40 healthcare technology companies, aims to support state Medicaid efforts to improve access and outcomes through telehealth, mHealth and other new technologies.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Dozens of health technology companies have formed a non-profit aimed at lobbying for more telehealth and mHealth in Medicaid.

Spurred by recent federal and state efforts to expand Medicaid programs targeting underserved populations, HealthTech4Medicaid (HT4M) aims “to further improve quality and access to care for Medicaid recipients by rapidly changing the pace of innovation.”

“Medicaid recipients and traditionally disadvantaged populations are often overlooked by new technology,” Leah Sparks, the group’s co-chair and CEO of Wildflower Health, said in a press release. “Our goal is to use technology innovation to reimagine how these patients are served.”

Roughly 40 percent of the nation’s Medicaid programs are taking a progressive approach to telehealth and telemedicine reimbursement, according to a state-by-state analysis earlier this year by the Manatt legal and consulting firm.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that telemedicine will be critical to delivering healthcare in the future, and state Medicaid policies are evolving – in some states more quickly than others – to accelerate adoption of telemedicine models,” the report, written by Manatt Health executives Jared Augenstein, Jacqueline D. Marks and Randi Seigel, states. “As technology advances and the evidence base for telemedicine expands, state policy will continue to evolve to integrate telemedicine into payment and delivery reforms that support overarching program objectives related to access, quality and cost of care.”

Telehealth and telemedicine proponents say state Medicaid programs could be particularly effective in using connected care technologies to improve outcomes in low-income and elderly populations, as well as with children. Telehealth could also prove useful in programs addressing the nation’s ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.

“If we are going to combat the opioid epidemic in this country, we need to close the treatment gap,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said in introducing the Medicaid Substance Use Disorder Treatment via Telehealth Act in December. “Leveraging telehealth is one commonsense way we can increase people’s access to care as we work to grow the number of treatment facilities in rural and underserved areas. This legislation provides tools to states like New Mexico so they can expand treatment for Medicaid beneficiaries. It’s one step in a number of comprehensive actions Congress needs to take so that more families get the care they need and deserve.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has also taken notice. In June, the agency issued a pair of guidance documents urging Medicaid program directors and healthcare providers to leverage telemedicine and telehealth to improve care management and coordination.

“Access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers remains a challenge for states and, appropriately, the President’s Commission supports leveraging telemedicine and telepsychiatry to facilitate more coordinated care,” one of the guidance document states. “States are reminded that they need not necessarily submit a state plan amendment to begin delivering covered Medicaid services through telehealth modalities. State plan amendments are only required if a state decides to reimburse for telemedicine services differently than they pay for face-to-face services, visits, and consultations.”

HT4M’s leadership says the group will strive to reinforce the role that connected care technology can play in developing and enhancing new programs.

“Our members and Advisory Council bring a broad range of expertise, resources and innovation to HT4M,” Abner Mason, the group’s founder and co-chair and CEO of ConsejoSano, said in the press release. “We’re thrilled to bring the group together to drive real change in technology innovation for Medicaid.”

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