A Wisconsin Health News virtual panel discussion on Sept. 14 on the future of telehealth covered a wide range of telehealth policy topics, with all panelists agreeing that the COVID pandemic significantly jump-started the widespread embrace of telehealth services.
The diverse panel included Jim Castellano, telehealth and virtual care manager at Marshfield Clinic Health System; Jim Jones, state Medicaid director at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services; Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton); John Nygren, executive director at Wisconsin Association of Health Plans; and Dr. John Schneider, chief medical officer at Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division.
The ability of telehealth services to expand access to care was universally touted by the panelists, and panelists noted that while the widespread use of telehealth emerged during the COVID pandemic, services delivered by telehealth will be here to stay in the long term.
Many of the topics discussed during the panel presentation touched on multiple public policy issues engaged in by WHA, including implementation of the 2019 Act 56 Medicaid telehealth parity law, continuation of Medicaid coverage for audio-only telehealth services, addressing telehealth barriers in Wisconsin’s licensure rules, geographic-based telehealth limitations in Medicare and private insurer coverage and payment of telehealth services.
The WHA-championed 2019 Act 56 Medicaid telehealth parity law was particularly cited by Medicaid Director Jones as critical to the ability of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program to quickly pivot to expand telehealth access early in the COVID pandemic. That legislation was developed over several months by WHA’s Telehealth Task Force. Rep. Loudenbeck was a co-author of the legislation.
“I don’t know who had a crystal ball, but thank goodness the Legislature and the governor enacted legislation that changed the telehealth landscape with Act 56 back in November 2019,” said Jones. “In March, all of a sudden we are in a pandemic, and we need to make sure our members are able to receive services. So, we ripped the band-aid off. We said that any service that could be provided via telehealth and did not require an in-person interaction could be done under the telehealth policies that were out there.”
WHA’s Telehealth Forum meets monthly to discuss telehealth topics and guide WHA’s telehealth advocacy efforts. WHA members can contact WHA General Counsel Matthew Stanford
or Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter