By Alana Lerer, MPH, CAHIMS, Manager, Government Relations, HIMSS
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grow, state policymakers in the United States are taking extensive actions to manage the spread of the virus through information and technology. These actions primarily focus on increasing access to telehealth to connect patients and providers virtually throughout the duration of the declared public health emergency. Other actions include supporting public health surveillance and electronic case reporting to improve disease tracking and management.
HIMSS is continuing to monitor state and federal actions, since policy changes are occurring daily.
As of March 17, states have taken the following actions on telehealth:
States are waiving in-state licensing requirements for providers delivering telehealth, per specified terms and conditions. For example, in Florida, with approval, out-of-state providers may deliver services through telehealth to Floridians without attaining a license throughout the duration of the public health emergency.
States are expanding access to telehealth for Medicaid recipients. These policies include loosening the limitations of originating site (location of patient), requiring that provider reimbursement for telehealth be the same as that of a traditional in-person visit, and allowing for multiple methods of telehealth, such as telephone without the requirement of video.
States are also mandating that commercial insurance carriers cover telehealth throughout the duration of the declared public health emergency. This may include waiving all copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for patients relating to COVID-19 diagnostic testing and requiring provider reimbursement for telehealth be the same as reimbursement for a traditional in-person visit.
States that have previously expanded access to telehealth provide guidance for healthcare providers.
The Center for Connected Health Policy has a helpful resource for additional information on telehealth at the state and federal levels.
Besides telehealth, states are beginning to appropriate funds for surveillance to detect and manage the outbreak and require electronic case reporting to public health entities.
These policy changes at the state level are key levers to manage the spread of COVID-19. As the crisis continues, it is imperative other states follow suit to effectively manage this public health emergency.
The HIMSS policy team works closely with the U.S. Congress, federal decision makers, state legislatures and governments, and other organizations to recommend policy, and legislative and regulatory solutions to improve health through information and technology.