State telehealth coverage broadens

Telehealth coverage broadens through state legislation

Missouri and Kentucky have enacted legislation expanding telemedicine coverage those states, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).

Missouri became the 19th state to mandate that private insurers reimburse healthcare providers for telehealth services on the same basis that they would for in-person services, while also prohibiting them from denying coverage for telehealth services.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has expanded telehealth coverage for its Medicaid beneficiaries to include a variety of physical and mental health evaluations, counseling and chronic disease monitoring (though still limiting reimbursement for providers to interactive video-conferencing).

[See also: Telemedicine shows ROI at ATA]

"This is a true win-win scenario," said Jonathan Linkous, the ATA's chief executive officer, in a press release. "First, it is a big victory for patients in Kentucky and Missouri, who now have greater access to the best-possible healthcare. It’s also a win for the treasury and taxpayers in those states, who will save significantly on public healthcare costs."

Linkous last week cautiously gave credit to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for expanding some telemedicine coverage nationwide for Medicare recipients. He made that point again in this week's announcement.

"While states and private payers are making big strides forward to improve access to care and reduce costs, [CMS is] still dragging their feet,” he said. “The federal government places unnecessarily strict barriers and restraints on how Medicare patients are served when they deserve access to quality healthcare, regardless of geographic location and technology used."

The Missouri/Kentucky announcement continues a busy six months in state legislative action, according to the ATA, which maintains a matrix on its website listing each state's activities. Since January, Mississippi, Montana, Maryland, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Vermont, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, New Mexico and Arizona have introduced or enacted legislation regarding telemedicine coverage. In addition, Virginia – one of the front-runners in enacting legislation – is testing a capitated payment model for Medicare and Medicaid dual-eligibles.