West Virginia health care leaders participate in roundtable with Rep. McKinley, CMS administrator

A roundtable discussion hosted by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., brought together West Virginia health-care industry leaders with Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

According to McKinley’s office, participants in the roundtable event included nearly two dozen hospital administrators, leaders of long-term care facilities and physicians from across the state.

McKinley said the purpose of the roundtable was to provide health-care administrators and professionals with a forum to provide feedback to CMS on regulatory changes and their ideas on the future of health care post-COVID-19.

McKinley called the discussion “enlightening” and “powerful.”

“We’re trying to give hope to people from the despair that has crept across this country in the past seven or eight months,” he said. West Virginia health care leaders participate in roundtable with Rep. McKinley, CMS administrator 

Verma discussed the actions CMS has taken to react to the virus, including giving more flexibility to providers, expanding telehealth and supporting nursing homes, McKinley’s office said.

The current goal of CMS is to lower costs and broaden health-care choices for patients while improving care. She sees reducing regulations as a way to achieve this, Verma said on a press call following the roundtable.

“Our providers on the front lines need to be with patients. In the past ... they just created so much administrative burden that that’s not only driving up costs, but it’s also leading to burnout for our providers,” Verma said.

McKinley said extended time was spent discussing efforts around increasing flexibility in telemedicine and telehealth, along with the broadband infrastructure needs in the state that would make these services accessible to more West Virginians.

According to Verma, telehealth provides convenience for some, but is a lifeline for others, particularly in more rural areas that may not have an abundance of nearby providers or specialists.

“We know that across the country there are areas that suffer from shortages in certain specialties and sub-specialists, and telehealth can augment that. I think it can actually augment the quality of care,” she said.

The service is also useful in providing mental health services, which people may be hesitant to seek in-person treatment due to stigmas often associated with mental illness, she said.

Verma added the potential for fraud and abuse in telehealth services must be monitored, just like in other types of practice.

McKinley said he is encouraged by the work Verma has carried out to date in response to the pandemic.

Verma said discussing challenges with West Virginia providers was helpful.

“I thought this was a really positive discussion in that we talked through a lot of the COVID response,” she said.

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