Expand Telemedicine to Curb High-Risk Pregnancies Proposed

Plan hopes to improve care delivery for an at-risk population and create significant long-term savings for the government and taxpayers.
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An advocacy group that promotes the use of advanced remote medical technologies is floating among members of Congress a proposal to expand the use of telemedicine for Medicaid enrollees with high-risk pregnancies and neonatal care needs.

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) says its plan can improve care delivery for an at-risk population and create significant long-term savings for the government and taxpayers.The ATA commissioned Avalere Health—a consultant that helps healthcare clients find innovative strategies—to appraise the proposal using Congressional Budget Office style cost estimating. Avalere Health says the plan could generate a savings of up to $186 million over the next 10 years.

The proposal uses a shared savings approach to encourage provider adoption, as well as a 90 percent contribution from the U.S. government in the first two years to encourage state adoption of the plan, the ATA says.

However, the plan does not include an initial expenditure figure that the federal government would have to fund, Gary Capistrant, the ATA’s senior director of public policy, tells Government Video. How much the federal government would have to initially appropriate to support the plan “would depend upon how big each state would make its program,” he said, adding, “The important thing is it would be a net savings to the federal government.”

The plan would provide Medicaid coverage of telemedicine for maternal-fetal and neonatal care via a comprehensive-care “birthing network.” The network could leverage telemedicine technologies to more effectively treat major conditions associated with high-risk pregnancies, including pre-term labor, gestational hyptertension, mild preeclampsia and gestational diabetes mellitus. The Department of Health and Human Services would ensure the quality of care through performance reporting, according to ATA.

ATA says its telemedicine plan “builds on the successful experience of the University of Arkansas ANGELS Program, which has cost-effectively managed a birthing network in that state for nearly 10 years.” It is also grounded in findings from the Institute of Medicine.

“This is a win-win for both patients and federal taxpayers,” said Jonathan Linkous, ATA’s CEO. The organization urges members of Congress “to quickly adopt this proposal and realize these savings.”

To increase the likelihood the plan will find a sponsor on Capitol Hill, tThe ATA has been in discussions with members of Congress “on a variety of tele-health proposals,” Capistrant said. However, because the high-risk pregnancy, neonatal care plan offers “some actual savings, that makes this proposal more attractive to Congress,” he said.