4 challenges to widespread telemedicine access

Telemedicine access has increased during the coronavirus pandemic as federal and state governments and private insurers relax restrictions, yet issues surrounding virtual care continue to restrict its use for some, ABC News reports. 

Last month, CMS expanded Medicare coverage of telehealth visits, allowing 85 additional services to be provided via telemedicine. Several states and health insurers have followed suit, rolling back regulations that prevented members from using telemedicine. 

Despite these efforts, telemedicine faces barriers to widespread expansion. Here are four cited by ABC: 

1. Lack of broadband internet access. Almost 35 million Americans no internet access, restricting them from joining video chats with healthcare providers, according to Pew Research Center. 

2. Mental telemedicine restrictions. While CMS expanded access to neuropsychological and psychological tests by allowing telemedicine delivery, the agency still does not cover therapy sessions via phone, Stephen Gillaspy, PhD, healthcare financing director at American Psychological Association, told ABC News.       

3. State-level regulations. States have the discretion to decide whether to adopt new rules for telemedicine, which can result in fragmented regulations and cause difficulties for multistate providers. For example, governors from California, Illinois and Massachusetts have issued executive orders that providers are reimbursed the same for telemedicine visits as in-person appointments, while Alabama, Idaho and Wyoming have not. 

4. Private insurer regulations. Because insurance is state-regulated, payers that expand telemedicine access will have different policies in each state. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield in Texas allows two-way telephone or digital video consultations while Blue Cross Blue Shield in Illinois only allows video visits, not telephone. 

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