Not covering telemedicine is 'simply wrong': Rhode Island providers push for coverage expansions

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Rhode Island healthcare providers are urging lawmakers to expand telemedicine regulations ahead of the state's Aug. 2 expiration of the executive order requiring insurers to cover virtual care, according to Providence Journal.

Community-based healthcare organizations argued that the Aug. 2 expiration will allow insurers to stop covering telemedicine visits, which they have been required to pay for teletherapy and related services during the pandemic.

"We can only presume that managed care organizations that want to reduce, limit or rescind this service are primarily focused on their short-term bottom line," Ben Lessing, CEO of Community Care Alliance, which serves northern Rhode Island, told the publication. "What this essentially does is limit low-income populations receiving Medicaid access to a potentially lifesaving healthcare service. This is simply wrong from a social justice and equity perspective."

The state Senate passed a bill last month that would permanently provide coverage, but the bill is currently awaiting House deliberation. House spokesman Larry Berman told Providence Journal that the bill has raised significant concerns about telemedicine coverage from CVS, Beacon Mutual, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Amica Insurance, United Health Group, Neighborhood Health Plan and business groups including Rhode Island Coalition.

"Those concerns have centered on provisions of the bill which remove any preauthorization for a telemedicine visit, therefore providing unlimited benefits and potentially unnecessary utilization and higher costs," Mr. Berman said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield told the publication that removing cost sharing for telemedicine was "appropriate and necessary" during the pandemic to ensure continuous access to care while abiding social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

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