Apr 28, 2020 • 21M

Krista Drobac Discusses Sweeping Changes in Federal Telehealth Policy In Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 27th)

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Appears in this episode

David Introcaso, Ph.D.
Podcast interviews with health policy experts on timely subjects. The Healthcare Policy Podcast website features audio interviews with healthcare policy experts on timely topics. An online public forum routinely presenting expert healthcare policy analysis and comment is lacking. While other healthcare policy website programming exists, these typically present vested interest viewpoints or do not combine informed policy analysis with political insight or acumen. Since healthcare policy issues are typically complex, clear, reasoned, dispassionate discussion is required. These podcasts will attempt to fill this void. Among other topics this podcast will address: •Implementation of the Affordable Care Act •Other federal Medicare and state Medicaid health care issues •Federal health care regulatory oversight, moreover CMS and the FDA •Healthcare research •Private sector healthcare delivery reforms including access, reimbursement and quality issues •Public health issues including the social determinates of health Listeners are welcomed to share their program comments and suggest programming ideas. Comments made by the interviewees are strictly their own and do not represent those of their affiliated organization/s.
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Listeners may be aware that up until recently the Medicare program strictly limited provider use of telehealth services via originating site and other numerous other regulatory rules despite its much wider adoption by other payers and the VA.  (E.g., see my previous interview/discussion with Ms. Drobac.)  Annual Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services equaled approximately 0.003% of annual Medicare spending.  With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Congress and CMS regulators, recognizing the emergency or dire need to maintain a Medicare beneficiary's ability to access to clinical care in a timely manner, markedly expanded telehealth coverage.  Both the Congress's March 27th CARES Act and CMS' April 6 interim final rule made sweeping reforms to Medicare telehealth policy.   

During this 22 minute conversation Ms. Drobac begins by explaining why the Medicare program significantly restricted use of telehealth.  Moreover, she outlines telehealth policy reforms noted in recent COVID-19-related legislation, moreover the CARES Act, and in CMS' interim final rule.  She discusses take-up or utilization by the provider community subsequent to these reforms, related Stark law issues, the need or persistence of integrity guard rails, and whether telehealth reforms will persist beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Ms. Krista Drobac is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care, an organization that advocates for telehealth policy reform.  She is also a Partner at the DC-based Sirona Strategies, a health policy consulting firm.  Previously, Ms. Drobac  was Director of the Health Division at the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices.  Prior to NGA, Ms.Drobac spent five years on Capitol Hill as a health advisor.  Prior still, she was a Senior Advisor at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) working in Medicaid and private insurance regulation and also served as Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.    Ms. Drobac holds a BA from the University of Michigan and an MPP from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

The Alliance for Connected Care is at: http://connectwithcare.org/.

Telehealth reform policies detailed in CMS' April 6th interim final rule  are at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-04-06/pdf/2020-06990.pdf

The CARES Act is at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text