This agency currently is not allowing any payment for critical care telemedicine if the physician's location is outside the United States.
RemoteICU, a company in Florida, connects intensivists who are living overseas with the hospitals of the US through telemedicine. It has sued the US Department of Health and Human Services over the telehealth restrictions of the agency.
HHS instituting waivers make telehealth ICU Service payable under Medicare. However, RICU says they are unable to expand services to more hospitals. The agency disallows any kind of critical care telemedicine-related payments in care the physician is locating outside the United States.
As RICU thinks, this is a kind of fundamental misunderstanding about what telehealth is. Jesse Panuccio, the partner at Boies Schiller Flexner and counsel for RICU, thinks the regulatory of HHS needs to catch up with the technology.
HHS has not yet made any response to the request to comment on this lawsuit. According to Panuccio, RICU works along with dozens of intensivist hospitals that have US licenses and board certifications. They have the necessary training in the US and possessing practice experience in the country.
Though the physicians live abroad, they work full-time as permanent staff members at the hospitals where they care for patients.
This allows them to fill in the gaps in healthcare shortage. It also helps them to cover night shifts during their daytime hours. Panuccio further argued that the service of the company could be crucial, especially during the pandemic.
Patients are facing critical conditions in the hospital due to Covid. They need hospitals who more doctors to handle the situation. They initially filed a lawsuit in the US district court for Columbia. As per the court documents, RICU contacted HJHS and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Official after the relaxed telehealth regulations under covid. After months the agency concluded that Medicare wouldn’t reimburse RICO’s client hospitals for their services.
The court has granted HHS to dismiss the lawsuit saying that it lacks the subject matter. RICU appealed and defiled a motion for expedited consideration. Panuccio thinks the location of a physician does not make any difference to the patients when it comes to offering remote care.
Although the relaxed telehealth restrictions have opened the virtual care floodgates during the pandemic, some of the rules and restrictions are still raising concerns.
Panuccio noted that the congressional lawmakers are looking interested in telehealth, though they are yet to take action in terms of permanent policies.