States forge ahead with telehealth coverage
22 states now have some form of telehealth reimbursement
Licensed providers in one Mid-Atlantic state will now be able to reimburse for telemedicine services from private insurers, joining 21 other states that have made the move thus far.
New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a telemedicine bill, which took effect Jan. 1, that requires private insurers to cover telemedicine services offered by certain providers. Among providers the law applies to are physicians, PAs, social workers, dentists and psychologists.
As the American Telemedicine Association pointed out, many of the remaining states that have yet to adopt telemedicine reimbursement bills are following suit. Missouri, for instance, is one of them, with state Rep. Jay Barnes introducing two bills this year that would allow for distant site physical, speech and occupational therapists to provide telemedicine services that would be reimbursed under the Medicaid program.
[See also: States get telehealth report cards.]
Other states that have scheduled hearings this month over potential telemedicine bills include Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee.
Iowa was recently given a failing grade for lack of telemedicine coverage and reimbursement in a September 2014 ATA report. The state does not reimburse for any telemedicine services under Medicaid and has no telemedicine parity law despite a recent attempt in 2014 to introduce legislation.
The ATA report examined 13 key indicators relating to telemedicine coverage and reimbursement – think Medicaid coverage, eligible providers, private insurance, etc.
The good news in the report was that some states did have comprehensive coverage and policies that promoted the adoption of telemedicine. Seven states, according to the research, reached the "A" level: those being Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee and Virginia.
Virginia, specifically, enacted a telemedicine parity law back in 2010, which includes telemedicine coverage under private insurance, state employee health plans and, in many cases, Medicaid.
And the bad news? Nearly half of all states earned grades of "C" or "F," with the lowest scores going to Connecticut, Iowa and Rhode Island, all earning Fs. These low composite scores suggest "many barriers and little opportunity for telemedicine advancement," concluded Latoya Thomas and Gay Capistrant, authors of the report.
"We hope these reports serve a dual purpose: to showcase the states that are doing an excellent job when it comes to telemedicine, and to serve as a wake-up call to those who are failing to extend quality and affordable care to the residents of their state," said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of ATA, in a Sept. 8 press statement announcing the report.