Telemedicine access in the state of New Hampshire is expanding thanks to a newly signed bill that will let primary care providers and pediatricians bill Medicaid and private insurances for telemedicine visits, according to a report by the Associated Press. The new legislation is an expansion from previous bills, which restricted reimbursement to specialist visits.
All providers with an already established in-person patient relationship can bill for remote monitoring, telemedicine and substance use disorder services. Patients covered under Medicaid will be able to access a physician without in-person contact with that provider, according to the legislation.
WHY IT MATTERS
Rural health continues to be a focus of telehealth efforts, a point the bill's proponents highlighted as a major benefit from the new legislation, the AP reports. About 37% of New Hampshire’s population is living in a rural area, according to Rural Health Information Hub. However, historically uptake of telemedicine services in rural communities has been a mixed bag.
A November USDA report found that rural residents were actually less likely than their urban counterparts to partake in online health research, maintenance and monitoring services. But the federal government continues to set its sights on this area. Currently, the FCC is seeking public comment on a $100 million rural telehealth pilot that would provide an 85% discount on telehealth connectivity expenses for health organizations in rural areas.
THE LARGER TREND
Reimbursement has been a major hurdle for telemedicine. Major players in the telehealth industry have handled this question differently. For example, Teladoc Health and Doctor on Demand initially made deals with insurers of self-insured employers, giving members access to 24/7 virtual care. Others like SnapMD and Zipnosis focused primarily on the provider market.
On the state level, reimbursement for telemedicine for Medicaid patients varies. Last year Manatt Health released a report looking at Medicaid-fee-for-service reimbursement policies, deeming 20 states progressive, 18 mixed or moderate and 12 restrictive.
“Nearly all state Medicaid programs provide reimbursement for some telemedicine services,” Manatt researchers wrote in a summary of their findings. “Most states allow several types of providers to administer care via telemedicine, and few limit the specific types of services that can be provided through these modalities. While there has been notable progress, some restrictions on the provision of telemedicine services for Medicaid members remain.”