Atrius Health submitted testimony before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing today in support of two important pieces of legislation that will support the practices and our patients. Writing on behalf of Atrius Health, Dr. Richard Lopez, Chief Medical Officer, submitted comments in support of H. 267, An Act Advancing & Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services as well as H. 984 and S. 606, An Act to Keep People Healthy by Removing Barriers to Cost-Effective Care.
Advocating for Telemedicine
Atrius Health recently joined with 16 other organizations to form a statewide coalition to support passage of the proposed telemedicine legislation (H.267). Atrius Health believes that the state needs to modernize its laws and policies to allow for innovations, such as telemedicine, that will improve access to care and increase the efficiency of care delivery while decreasing the overall cost of healthcare in the state.
The proposed legislation would improve insurance coverage of telemedicine by expanding coverage to the Massachusetts Medicaid program and plans covered by the Group Insurance Commission, as well as ensuring that all managed care plans recognize and cover telemedicine services. In addition, the bill would adopt federal standards that currently allow appropriate clinicians to provide telemedicine services within their licensure and scope of practice standards.
We fully support state efforts to permit innovations, such as telemedicine services, as healthcare continues to change and evolve. Atrius Health believes telemedicine can play an important role in the delivery of healthcare by offering patients, particularly vulnerable populations, and easier access to clinicians. Patients that may have transportation issues or mobility issues would be able to get the care they need without having to leave their home
Removing Barriers to Cost-Effective Care
Atrius Health also joined a number of other organizations including consumer groups, calling for passage of H.984 and S606, to eliminate financial barriers to care, particularly for at risk patients who often find it difficult to pay for needed medications and services.
As a large multi-specialty medical group serving a diverse patient population from various income levels as well as those with those with complex medical needs, our clinicians frequently and increasingly encounter patients who are unable to afford the medications they desperately need. The need is particularly critical for patients with:
While more consumer cost sharing might have benefit in lowering the cost of care for unnecessary care, it has a negative impact on the groups cited above. Numerous studies have shown that better medication adherence can reduce the cost of care in chronic disease by keeping these patients healthy. So there is an irony here that the same financial barriers or “incentives” put in place to reduce unnecessary care and reduce the cost of care has the exact reverse effect in these populations who need but cannot afford their medications.
As an Accountable Care Organization that focuses on population management, Atrius Health has invested significant resources in our home-based primary care program, our visiting nurse program, clinical pharmacists and case managers to name a few. All too often, we find that our patients fail to adhere to their medication regimen because of their inability to pay. While we work to ensure that we prescribe the least expensive drugs for our patients and our social workers and other internal resources work to assist our patients who cannot afford this medicine, we find this is a mounting issue for patients in the Commonwealth that bears closer examination.
Likewise, we find that there are other areas beyond medications that significantly improve patient health outcomes such as routine colonoscopies and immunizations against HPV, but co-pays and deductibles impede some vulnerable populations from seeking such care.
We strongly encourage the legislature to enact H. 267, An Act Advancing & Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services as well as H. 984 and S606, An Act to Keep People Healthy by Removing Barriers to Cost-Effective Care as quickly as possible.