October 06, 2022

MedPAC Meeting Focuses on Safety Net Providers and Telehealth Expansion

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) met virtually Sept. 29–30 to discuss payment policy topics in preparation for its March report to Congress. MedPAC is a non-partisan, independent legislative branch commission created to advise Congress about Medicare-related issues

The commissioners focused on how to best support safety net providers. These clinicians, who treat high shares of low-income beneficiaries (including Medicaid recipients and the uninsured), could experience financial strain, which may further undermine access to care or impact quality of care to all. The commissioners highlighted the importance of balancing the support of these providers with fiscal responsibility by deciding what situations new Medicare funding is warranted via add-on payments. This is an ongoing project of the commission to mitigate financial vulnerabilities at the provider level while maintaining access and quality care to all patients

Historically, Medicare’s physician fee schedule has covered a limited set of telehealth services in rural locations. During the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily expanded Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services and increased payment rates for these services. The commission discussed the potential coverage expansion of telehealth services after the end of the PHE. One policy option discussed is the continuation of expansions for a certain duration of time to allow policymakers to gather more data and evidence about the impact of telehealth on access, quality and cost. The commissioners noted that Medicare currently lacks comprehensive data sources and that there is a time lag in gathering administration claims data. The commission is developing methods to perform these analyses, as the mandated report will be part of MedPAC’s June 2023 Report to Congress. MedPAC commissioners were generally supportive of considering alternative approaches to paying for telehealth services under the physician fee schedule as well as specialized payments to federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics

For questions, please contact Kimberly Greck, American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Economic Policy Analyst, or Christina Berry, ACR Team Lead, Economic Policy.