Private insurers urge Congressional Budget Office to consider their data when evaluating telemedicine

By Jonah Comstock
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Eleven private insurers, including Aetna, Humana, and Anthem, have written a public letter to the Congressional Budget Office urging the CBO to consider data from private insurers in estimating the cost savings associated with telemedicine.

In the letter, emailed to MobiHealthNews by pro-telemedicine lobby group the Alliance for Connected Care (which is not a signatory), the insurers ask CBO director Keith Hall to consider non-Medicare data sources and offer up their own data.

“As some of the nation’s largest insurers covering millions of Americans, we write to provide our perspective on telemedicine and urge you to consider non-Medicare sources of data in scoring congressional proposals,” they write. “As you know, there is significant congressional interest in breaking down barriers to telemedicine access in Medicare, and we believe our experience in the commercial market can inform estimates of the impact of policy changes in Medicare.”

The letter notes the ways in which the federal government is already vouching for telemedicine – from CMS’s embrace of the technology in its innovative payment models to use of telemedicine by the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Administration – before making its case for the efficacy of the technology.

“Available data supports the value proposition of telehealth and shows that there are significant savings to be gained even as it increases access to care,” the letter states. “…We would be happy to facilitate a meeting between the appropriate CBO staff and representatives from our organizations to discuss our experiences with telehealth and share outcomes data we have seen to date in our commercial insurance programs.”

The letter was signed by Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Cambia Health Solutions, CareSource, EmblemHealth, HMSA - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Humana, Molina Healthcare, and MVP Health Care.

“While many of us are embracing telemedicine in our offerings outside of Medicare Advantage (MA), we want to clearly note that the barriers in Medicare hamper our ability to offer these services to our MA customers,” the letter concludes. “We have worked closely with CMS to find ways to provide telemedicine through MA plans, but can only do so as a supplemental benefit. Our options are also limited without congressional action to reduce barriers in the Medicare fee-for-service benefit. Congressional action depends, in part, on a budget impact analysis from your office.”