• Advocacy Legislative Action Employment

    State and Federal Deregulation Sparks Dramatic Telehealth Increase During the COVID-19 Response

    Desmond Watt

    Data show that telehealth utilization is increasing because of new flexibilities for the provision of Medicare telehealth services and potentially because of HHS’s policy change that allows providers to use popular video platforms to connect with patients. Additionally, the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as amended by the CARES Act, requires group health plans and health insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 testing and any related provider visits to administer such testing, including telehealth visits. Furthermore, the recent increase in telehealth utilization makes sense, as Federal policies have encouraged alternatives to in-person interaction and there is a need to decrease demands on the healthcare system. While it is difficult to separate whether the surge in telehealth is primarily driven by patients’ and providers’ shifting preferences due to COVID-19, the CARES Act, or private insurance reimbursement policies echoing Medicare’s change, all of these factors more than likely contributed to telehealth’s growth.

    From March 14 to April 1, daily telehealth claims for upper respiratory infections using ICD-10 diagnosis codes from private insurance increased nearly 12 times from the daily average over the previous month.

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