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States Move Toward Permanent Telehealth Expansion

With healthcare practices increasingly adopting telehealth access and coverage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states are making moves to permanently embrace the technology.

he governor of Colorado, for example, recently signed a bill expanding access to telehealth by preventing insurance providers from mandating patients have an established provider relationship for telehealth services. Remote monitoring services are now covered under the new law, and restrictions on technology, as long as the technology is HIPAA-compliant, were also removed.

In Idaho, the governor signed an executive order urging agencies throughout the state to take action to immediately solidify the telehealth rule waivers and other regulations imposed during the COVID crisis. The exemptions also extend the technologies that could be used for telehealth, permitting telehealth providers to prescribe more drugs, including drug-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder.

As the pandemic started to affect patient numbers in March, health systems and physician offices turned rapidly to telehealth as a way to preserve revenue and keep track of patients who were chronically ill. Payers made it simpler for them by covering telehealth services, and the use of telemedicine rose rapidly.

CMS relaxed many of the regulations previously preventing telehealth expansion. They extended telehealth coverage for Medicare beneficiaries and reduced the requirements that previously forced patients to be housed at certain rural locations. The agency also expanded the number of telehealth services it would pay for and permitted telehealth providers to conduct telehealth via phone.

Many of the flexibilities put into place to allow easier access to telehealth are set to expire when the health emergency ends. Confusion about continued flexibility and what will be covered at that time has led many to speculate whether or not telehealth will remain a popular choice for providers. The laws enacted by the governors of Colorado and Idaho are aimed at solidifying some of those temporary fixes to help keep telehealth a viable option.

This update is provided by CareOptimize. We provide healthcare management consulting services and products, managed care solutions, value-based expertise, Nextgen EHR utilities, MIPS consulting, and more. CareOptimize has helped numerous healthcare organizations succeed for more than a decade. For more information, please call 855.937.8475.