Should private payers reimburse for virtual visits?

Massachusetts hospitals are throwing their support behind a bill that would require private payers to reimburse for virtual visits with a physician at the same level as in-person services, according to a STAT report.

Here are five things to know about the bill.

1. Under House Bill 267, all Medicaid and state employee plans would be required to cover telemedicine services, including patient-to-physician and physician-to-physician consultations, according to the report. Physicians could also remotely treat patients in states other than Massachusetts.

2. The bill would include services transmitted by video, audio or other electronic communication.

3. State Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley), a former hospital vice president who sponsored the bill, said the goal of the legislation is to reduce the time, money and stress it takes for patients to travel to the hospital, according to the report.

4. The Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, which represents 17 private insurance plans, however, claims the bill is too broad and would allow physicians to bill even for minor services, such as a phone call, according to STAT.

5. If the bill passes, Massachusetts would join 29 states that have some type of parity law requiring coverage of telemedicine services, according to the report, which cites information from the American Telemedicine Association. The report notes, however, that not all of these states require equal reimbursement rates, and that states define telemedicine differently.


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