VA set to waive co-pays on telehealth visits

Published by FierceHealthIT
April 10, 2012

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs proposal could lower one barrier to telehealth--the agency is considering waiving patient co-pays for remote visits, saying it aims to make "the home a preferred place of care," whenever appropriate.

"Telehealth helps ensure that veterans are able to get their care in a timely and convenient manner, by reducing burdens on the patient as well as appropriately reducing the utilization of VA resources without sacrificing the quality of care provided," the VA says in its proposed rule. "The benefits of using this technology include increased access to specialist consultations, improved access to primary and ambulatory care, reduced waiting times, and decreased veteran travel."

The VA notes that it has the power to set fees for service and that the fees are based on the complexity of care provided and the resources needed to provide that care.

In other words, the VA has found that this type of care can not only improve outcomes and access, but also save money --more than enough to cover the cost of lost co-pays.

The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare praised the VA for the move.

"We applaud the VA for recognizing that copayments can shift patients to more costly settings and increase healthcare costs," Chairman Billy Tauzin, senior counsel to the organization, said in a statement. "By eliminating this counterproductive barrier, the VA is making it possible for more veterans to receive clinically advanced, cost effective care in their own homes."

The VA simultaneously published a direct final rule that eliminate the co-pays unless there's significant adverse comments on the proposed rule, a tactic that allows the VA to expedite the process. The waiver could go into effect as early as May 7, reports Health Data Management.

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