publication date: Jul. 17, 2020

Future of telehealth uncertain as CMS, private insurers reexamine payment policies put in place in March

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

Summer of 2020 was supposed to be a brief period of respite between Wave 1 and Wave 2 of COVID-19, but out of sheer stubbornness, for reasons political, or both, SARS-CoV-2 didn’t get the message.

So, in July, as ICUs fill up again, hospitals and oncology practices implement survival strategies they developed when signs of the pandemic first emerged.

And the key strategy is what?

Telehealth. Remote monitoring of patients. Taking care of patients without unnecessarily exposing them to the virus. Keeping doctors safe while generating the revenues to pay them.

In March, payers—federal and commercial—started to reimburse telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person encounters.

But some of these measures may expire at the end of July. There is no guarantee that government money will keep flowing indefinitely, and private insurers are already starting to limit coverage.

UnitedHealthcare, the largest private insurer in the U.S., is cutting back its current reimbursement schema for telehealth.

On July 24, the company is scheduled to eliminate its cost-sharing waiver for out-of-network telehealth services for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 visits.

The cost-share waiver is extended through Sept. 30 for network-only telehealth services.

If the U.S. continues to see high daily infection numbers and the pandemic drags into fall and merges into the flu season, will healthcare providers be able to remain afloat?

As HHS considers extending the public health emergency designation past July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is assessing “whether these expanded telehealth … Continue reading Future of telehealth uncertain as CMS, private insurers reexamine payment policies put in place in March

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Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.