Informing the Debate About Telemedicine Reimbursement: What Do We Need to Know?

commentary

Nov 21, 2022

Latina mother and her sick son talking to a  doctor on a video call, photo by Hispanolistic/Getty Images

Photo by Hispanolistic/Getty Images

This commentary originally appeared on New England Journal of Medicine on November 17, 2022.

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there remains substantial uncertainty about the future of telemedicine policy. At the start of the pandemic, U.S. payers and policymakers broadly expanded payment for telemedicine services and relaxed many regulations. For example, for the first time, both audio-only and video visits were reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits and all patients could participate in telemedicine appointments from their homes. Most federal pandemic-era telemedicine policies remain temporary and are currently scheduled to expire in June 2023 or five months after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends. To date, policymakers have pursued a “kick the can” approach to telemedicine, with each extension of the federal public health emergency delaying the need for permanent policies.

The can will most likely be kicked again. The House of Representatives recently passed by an overwhelming margin the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act, which would extend most temporary telemedicine policies through 2024. The bill is now before the Senate. Although this bill would affect only Medicare reimbursement, changes in Medicare often influence other payers. A two-year extension is in keeping with experts' recommendations, and it echoes policies in several states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nejm.org.


Ateev Mehrotra is an adjunct physician policy researcher and Lori Uscher-Pines is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation.