Telemedicine was increasing in popularity before COVID-19, and it has exploded ever since. Insurance regulatory bodies are keeping up to help patients access the service.
On the surface, telemedicine makes a lot of sense. After all, why would you travel across town to visit a doctor when you can speak with one from home? This question is especially relevant when dealing with a minor issue that requires advice rather than urgent care.
Americans, particularly those in the Northeast, agree with that sentiment. According to independent medical data collection firm Fair Health, telehealth insurance claims increased in the region by 15,303% from March 2019 to March 2020. This increase is likely due to the pandemic.
New York could see this increase in telehealth usage hold steady. That’s because the state has, at least temporarily, removed regulatory barriers like cost-sharing from in-network telemedicine visits. The government has approved Medicaid and CHIP coverage on video and audio health services, as well.
Here’s a look at telemedicine in New York and how insurance is evolving because of its popularity.
Common telemedicine afflictions
For the most part, doctors see telehealth patients for particular issues that don’t require an in-person visit.
Currently, the most common reason to speak with a telehealth practitioner is for mental health conditions. In these situations, the doctor and patient can talk much the same way they would in an office.
The next most common telehealth call is for a respiratory illness. Patients who think they may have COVID-19 call telemedicine practitioners to go over their symptoms and discuss whether they should go for a test. These calls are important because they keep sick people at home unless they require care.
The third most common affliction seen in telemedicine is soft tissue or joint problems. These calls are often for the treatment of chronic conditions like arthritis.
Finally, many people are seeking telehealth assistance because of hypertension. Blood pressure and heart issues are conditions where the doctor can recommend that the patient seek more urgent medical care if the symptoms call for it.
As patients become more familiar and comfortable with telemedicine, we should see this list expand to even more afflictions.
Eligible healthcare providers
Under New York law, private healthcare plans cannot exclude any telehealth services that would receive in-person coverage.
Many different doctors are eligible to practice telemedicine, as family physicians and general practitioners aren’t the only ones who can go this route.
For example, specialists like psychiatrists, psychologists, podiatrists, optometrists, and even dentists can employ telemedicine to meet with their patients. Other eligible healthcare providers include pathologists, diabetes educators, genetic counselors, hospice workers, and home care services agencies.
Even midwives can meet with pregnant women remotely, allowing these individuals to stay home and get rest while still receiving the medical advice they require.
There are very few limits on which healthcare providers can use telemedicine to offer care to their patients, so we’ll likely see more of them take advantage of the service in the future.
Medicaid, CHIP, and private insurance
Now that you’re aware of how you can potentially use telemedicine, you’re likely wondering one thing: what about insurance?
The good news is that back in 2016, New York signed a law stating that private insurance companies must cover telehealth services. The same bill also allows Medicaid to increase its coverage and reimbursement of these services, too.
More bills have come into law since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as government officials attempt to take some of the strain off the healthcare system.
One such law states that Medicaid and CHIP must provide coverage for both video and audio-only medical services. The reason is that people in more remote parts of the state might not have fast enough internet for video calls.
New regulations have also temporarily stopped insurance companies from charging coinsurance, copayment, and annual deductible fees for in-network telehealth services. This law only applies during New York’s current state of emergency but will provide some relief until life gets back to normal.
Hopefully, these changes will encourage more people to use telemedicine services. This form of care can reduce in-person healthcare system strain by keeping people away from emergency rooms and doctors’ offices unless they absolutely need to be there.
NICRIS Insurance Agency puts its focus on providing you with protection that best suits your unique requirements. Whether you’re looking for advice or a free, personalized insurance review, contact us today.