Telehealth is serving as a critical component of our nation’s healthcare strategy during the current pandemic by creating access to health services for those who can be safely treated at home, allowing those most in need of critical care to receive in person treatment. With the passage of the CARES Act, the federal government eased restrictions to telehealth in Medicare to allow physicians and other health care professionals to bill for patient care delivered during the pandemic, which has been critical for healthcare providers to continue to manage care for vulnerable patients and those that are unable to seek in-person care. But this measure is temporary and Congress should act to permanently expand access to telemedicine services by expanding the range of services eligible for reimbursement and providing funds to support the expansion of telecommunication infrastructure for providers and the low-income and rural communities that they serve.
Passing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act1 is one step in the right direction to address access to care for vulnerable and location challenged populations, and will enable more patients with non-urgent conditions to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus by receiving healthcare services at home.
State should also expand coverage of telehealth services by requiring both Medicaid and private payer plans to reimburse telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services and diversify the forms of telehealth that are eligible for coverage.