Although use of telehealth services has surged in recent months, experts say that the permanence of a shift to virtual care is far from certain, unless regulations and the industry’s reimbursement model change dramatically.
Emergency measures adopted by the Trump administration and states have allowed telehealth providers to significantly scale up in recent weeks. Using waiver authority, HHS temporarily relaxed the rules surrounding Medicare reimbursement for telehealth, which had included limits such as requiring the patient to live in a designated rural area. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes a $200 million appropriation to the Federal Communications Commission to expand telehealth services, and in April the FCC announced a $100 million program to build out broadband capacity for health care providers. And according to a recent paper from two think tanks, the Brookings Institution and the John Locke Society, many states have moved to waive in-state licensure requirements for telehealth providers.