Viewpoint: Telehealth parity mandates prevent cost savings

Requiring telehealth reimbursement at the same rates as in-person services will prevent savings for patients, writes Angela Dills, PhD, in The Hill Dec. 21

The professor of economics at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., writes that without parity requirements — which are being considered in the U.S. House and Senate and several state legislatures —reimbursement rates for telehealth services tend to be lower than in-person visits. Payment parity, on the other hand, pegs telehealth to more expensive in-person services. By maintaining price parity mandates for telemedicine, the potential cost savings aren't being passed onto the patient. 

Proponents of telehealth parity argue that telemedicine services often require investments in technology infrastructure like data analyzing software and equipment and thus deserve to be charged in the same way as in-person services to offset these costs. Dr. Dills pushes back on this argument by saying that these costs are often initial one-time expenses that can be paid for through subsidies. 

Dr. Dills argues that separate negotiation of telehealth rates reflects the real difference in price of service as compared to in-person appointments and that insurers and payers should be able to negotiate the price for these services as they do for other newly approved treatments. 

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