States get telehealth report cards

Almost half are lagging in reimbursement, coverage policies
By Erin McCann
10:54 AM
How do individual states stack up when it comes to telemedicine coverage and reimbursement? A new report from the American Telemedicine Association details just that -- assigning letter grades to each state and shedding light on the winners and those who still have a long way to go. 
 
After examining 13 key indictors relating to telemedicine coverage and reimbursement -- think Medicaid coverage, eligible providers, private insurance, etc. -- ATA researchers found both good news and some not-so-good news.
 
 
The good news? 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. 
 
Then, there's the bad news, which is that almost half of all states saw grades of "C" or "F," with the lowest scores going to Connecticut, Iowa and Rhode Island, who all saw Fs. These low composite scores suggest "many barriers and little opportunity for telemedicine advancement," concluded Latoya Thomas and Gay Capistrant, authors of the report. 
 
Iowa, for instance, has no telemedicine parity law despite a recent attempt early this year to introduce legislation. The state also does not cover telemedicine under Medicaid.  
 
Virginia, on the other hand, among the states earning the top grades, enacted a telemedicine parity law back in 2010, which includes telemedicine coverage under private insurance, state employee health plans and, in many cases, Medicaid. 
 
 
"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. "We hope that states will respond by streamlining policies to improve medical practice rules, licensure, healthcare quality and reduce costs through accelerated telemedicine adoption."
 
Today, there are some 10 million Americans using telemedicine, said Linkous, to Healthcare IT News back in November. 
 
"There's a huge change in the number of people that are using telemedicine," Linkous said, and that can be attributed to several different factors. One of the biggest, he said, is payers are now reimbursing for distance-based care. "Ten years ago, almost no one was paying for telemedicine."