What We're Reading: Expanding Use of Telemedicine Under Medicare

What we're reading, February 5, 2016: new legislation could expand the use of telehealth under Medicare; Massachusetts finds its physicians only screen for depression half the time; and Martin Shkreli pleads the Fifth during most of his testimony before Congress.

A senator from Hawaii has introduced legislation that would expand the use of telemedicine under Medicare and eliminate many of the current restrictions on reimbursement. Currently, to be reimbursed for telehealth under Medicare, patients must be located at certain sites in certain rural areas and only Medicare-defined physicians and practitioners can provide these services, according to Healthcare Informatics. The new legislation would expand the site for use and would make telehealth be a basic benefit in Medicare Advantage.

The US Preventive Services Task Force may now recommend that all adults are screened for depression, but there is a long way to go. The Boston Globe reported that in Massachusetts, primary care providers only ask patients if they are depressed or have other emotional problems just half the time. In comparison, these physicians earned much higher scores for screening patients who should be screened for colon cancer (81%) and screening diabetics for blood sugar problems (96%).

As probably should have been expected, during his testimony before members of Congress so-called “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was of little help in the hearing. Shkreli mostly pled the Fifth and did not answer questions or smirked at comments from the members of the committee, STAT reported. After Shkreli, Turing’s chief commercial officer was more forthcoming with answers.