Telehealth: Law firm outlines 3 drivers, 2 barriers going into 2019

Telehealth has seen growing acceptance among providers and legislators in the past year. However, adoption has slowed as many health insurers don't cover the service, according to a report from national law firm Epstein Becker Green.

Epstein Becker Green reviewed state telehealth laws, regulations and policies for its annual report, which focuses on mental and behavioral healthcare. 2018 marks the third year Epstein Becker Green has released its 50-state telehealth report.

"Telehealth is a proactive solution for patients who need quality care from healthcare providers who may not be located close by or require real-time or after-hours care," said Amy Lerman, a member of the law firm's healthcare and life sciences practice who spearheaded the report. "We are excited to find that it is still evolving, growing and improving Americans' quality of life."

Here are three trends that drove telehealth expansion in 2018, according to the report:

1. Bipartisan support. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expanded Medicare coverage for certain telehealth services to beneficiaries who are being treated by practitioners participating in ACOs

2. Advocacy from Medicare and Medicaid. In June, CMS encouraged states to use telehealth and telepsychiatry services to coordinate care for Medicaid recipients.

3. Opioid epidemic. Several states passed legislation to expand remote prescribing of controlled substances for the treatment of substance use disorders.

Here are two barriers to telehealth expansion in 2019, according to the report:

1. Lack of federal guidance on coverage and reimbursement. Despite Medicaid easing restrictions on telehealth coverage, there is still limited federal guidance on implementing telehealth in state programs.

2. Limited coverage from third-party payers. Many public and private payers don't offer meaningful coverage and reimbursement of telehealth services.

To download Epstein Becker Green's report, click here.

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