Last year, Ohio Governor Kasich signed into law an authorization for Medicaid to cover telemedicine services. It went into effect January 1, 2015. But what do telemed services mean for seniors and the elderly who receive Medicaid?
Currently, the Department of Medicaid is working with the state in order to define the standards of what telemedicine will ultimately look like and the role it will play. It defines “telemedicine” as the “direct delivery of services to a patient provided through synchronous, interactive and real-time electronic communication that includes both audio and video components.” This definition doesn’t include other digital or electronic communication efforts such as email.
There are also very important distinctions and exclusions that will factor in how telemedicine is delivered in our state. Perhaps the biggest distinction is the difference between Medicaid’s telemed efforts and those Medicare has ruled on. The biggest difference is that right now, only medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine or licensed psychologists will be authorized to seek Medicaid reimbursement when they deliver “eligible services”. Keep in mind, this could shift between now and the first of the year, but it’s interesting to see how it’s playing out, especially considering the seniors who could potentially benefit from the technology.
Ah, but what about the role of the Affordable Care Act? Remember, Ohio was one state that opted for the expansion. This means younger residents who don’t earn enough to pay for traditional policies will be able to enroll in Medicaid. State insurance commissioner Mary Taylor, second in command to Republican Gov. John Kasich, began sounding the alarm about what she describes as “unacceptably high” premium increases since Obamacare went into effect. Most policies are coming in at more than 13 percent higher for individuals and for small business owners, they’re seeing that, plus an additional 11 percent for their policies.
For perspective, consider this:
Not only are Ohioans paying considerably more for traditional policies, but now, more than 2.4 million Ohioans are enrolled in Medicaid. Because 1.5 million more have no coverage at all, they will soon be or already are, enrolling in Medicaid. When you consider the state’s total population of 11,500 million, it’s startling to realize that a large portion rely on Medicaid.
Could Telemed be the solution?
For seniors, it very well could be a great way to stay on top of their healthcare needs. There are still limitations, but for those families who have an elderly person who’s ill or frail, the idea of their not having to leave home to visit their doctors is huge, especially if they live in rural areas.
Not only could it mean near-instant access to a health care professional, but the convenience factor is tremendous, too. Families often have to schedule time off from work to ensure an elderly parent makes it to his doctor’s appointment. A teleconference could mean lost time at work for family members, a much more comfortable environment for seniors to speak with their doctors and, of course, the monetary benefits. Overall, most agree that this could improve not only the quality of care a patient receives, but the quality of health care as a whole.
If you’ve been turned down for Medicaid or are just unsure of what your options are, we invite you to contact our office today. Covering those important healthcare bases today means less worry in the future.