As shared by my colleague Dax Hill, telemedicine has continued to gain in popularity over the past couple of years. In our local market, Aetna, Cigna, and UHC have already added telemedicine to their fully insured plan options, and BCBSNC is adding telemedicine to all their fully insured plans renewing on or after 7/1/2017. To date, telehealth is being used primarily for acute care treatment such as sinus infection, flu, minor burns and more.
However, the possibilities for expansion into disease management are great. It appears private insurers are not alone in their desire to expand the use of telehealth. A recent bill introduced in the Senate would expand telehealth coverage under Medicare for specific groups of patients: stroke patients and recipients of dialysis at home. This would allow them to have their monthly clinical assessments performed via telehealth without geographic restrictions.
The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017 (CHRONIC Care Act) is the second proposed bill that seeks to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, introduced previously, would allow hospitals to test providing telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries. While both bills still need to make their way out of the Senate and through the House, they represent a continued focus in the healthcare industry and in the government to look at telehealth as a potential way to improve quality of care at a potentially lower cost. With both private insurers and the government including telehealth in their care plans, employers looking to proactively manage healthcare costs and offer more convenience to employees may wish to follow suit.
If your organization is interested in evaluating telehealth options further, please reach out to a member of our HCW consulting team to learn more.