According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare telemedicine reimbursement totaled $13.9 million in Calendar Year 2014. This figure reflects payments of $12,482,270 for provider fees at the distant site (the location of the telemedicine provider) and $1,452,160 for originating site fees (the location of the patient).
According to information provided by CMS to The Robert J. Waters Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law (CTeL), CMS reimbursement for distant and originating site telemedicine services has steadily increased since 2008.
The information builds on information provided by CTeL in 2011, which captured reimbursement figures from 2001, the year the current Medicare reimbursement program was implemented through 2011 (preliminary figures).
Click here for CTeL’s 2011 article “How Much Does Medicare Reimburse for Telehealth? The Real Story.”
Since 2001, CMS’s Medicare reimbursement for distant site services totals $51 million and $6.5 million for originating site fees, for a total of $57.6 million over fourteen years.
In 2001, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost CMS $150 million during the first 5 years, or $30 million a year to reimburse for telehealth encounters.
We republish former CTeL President Rob Sprang’s words first written 2011, because they still ring true today, as they have every year:
It’s important to keep in mind that this is not “additional reimbursement.” As we know, telehealth encounters and reimbursement are just the same reimbursement, but through a different medium. Instead of CMS paying for an in person visit, the encounter occurs through telemedicine.
The purpose of a telehealth encounter is to get the right care to the right person at the right place and at the right time, resulting in early diagnosis and treatment and more efficient care. For example, if a patient has to wait three months to see a dermatologist, the disease progression can be significant, and potentially more costly.
Reform of the health care system is here. Whether it is the existing healthcare reform or another. It is well past time for policymakers to recognize the vital role that telehealth can play in a more efficient, reformed healthcare system that rewards quality care and successful outcomes rather than today’s model that rewards providers on a transactional basis—the more they do, the more money they make.
The numbers don’t lie. Telehealth will not break the bank, but is the only way to bring true equity of healthcare access to all Americans, no matter where they live. Those of us in the industry have known it all along. Now we have the proof.
Rob Sprang, MBA
Director, Kentucky Telecare