Future of telehealth may rely on lawmakers extending emergency measures 

The use of telehealth grew over the course of the pandemic, alerting healthcare providers to the benefits of the medical strategy. However, its future may rely on whether lawmakers decide to extend emergency measures introduced throughout the pandemic, PBS reported Dec. 7. 

In April 2021, 64 percent of households reported using a telehealth service over the last year and 40 percent of people reported interacting more with their healthcare provider as a result of telehealth.

Many states have extended the temporary measures that allowed for more services to be conducted virtually and require public or private payers to cover it. Other states are also looking to extend these provisions. Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy, estimates there are more than 1,000 telehealth bills in state legislatures. 

"To suddenly have access taken away by a policy change could have significant, adverse impacts on many," she told PBS.

Twenty-seven states have expanded Medicaid coverage to include telehealth services. The Biden administration also announced that Medicare will continue to cover virtual behavioral health services. More than two dozen states have also made requirements for private payers to cover telehealth services permanent. 

However, CMS said it will evaluate other telehealth services before deciding whether to extend coverage beyond 2024. Some states' extensions of coverage are also not permanent, meaning the future of telehealth may depend on whether they become ingrained in policy post-pandemic. 

 

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