The COVID-19 pandemic spurred rapid implementation of major reimbursement changes for telehealth services, responding to the need to provide patients with services other than traditional face-to-face care. In what would normally take months or even years, changes in Medicare and Medicaid
coverage and reimbursement were accomplished in a matter of weeks. At its virtual meeting on June 22, WHA’s Telemedicine Work Group discussed the impact these changes have had on patient care, and patient and provider satisfaction with telehealth as a mode of providing health care. The work group also discussed the need to push for making many of these changes permanent.
Work group members reported that since the expansion of telehealth, patient satisfaction scores are some of the highest they have ever seen. Provider satisfaction with telehealth is also very high. Some providers report that patients feel more comfortable receiving health care in their home environment, which increases the patient’s openness with their providers. This is especially true for patients receiving behavioral health services.
Another major advantage is patient convenience. Patients who face transportation barriers can more easily access health care services via telehealth. Telehealth services also eliminate inconveniences children with special needs experience, as they often travel to a clinic in special vehicles or with durable medical equipment. Patients who live in areas with poor broadband coverage have gained better access to health care due to reimbursement of audio-only health care services.
Key advocacy focus areas for WHA will include working with the state’s Department of Health Services as it begins the process of drafting administrative rules outlining Medicaid coverage of telehealth, as authorized in 2019 Wisconsin Act 56
, a WHA-backed law which expanded Medicaid coverage for telehealth. On the federal level, in light of CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s recent statement
that she “can’t imagine going back” to pre-COVID Medicare telehealth coverage, WHA will be working closely with Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to advocate for the necessary legislative and regulatory changes to make these policies permanent.
The Telemedicine Work Group will meet again in August. For further information on the work group, contact WHA’s Laura Rose
, Jon Hoelter
, or Matthew Stanford