Telehealth service expansions by Medicare and most Medicaid programs aim to rapidly increase access to care and reduce transmission, but also provide a natural experiment for policymakers.
This week, our In Focus section examines the extensive scope of flexibilities Federal and State governments have made to Medicare and Medicaid telehealth coverage in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. In March and April 2020, federal and state policymakers responded to the COVID-19 emergency by temporarily and aggressively expanding the definition of and reimbursement for telehealth services—moves intended to improve access to care and reduce virus transmission. Under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, these temporary expansions have been rapid and historic in scope, and will have substantial implications for patients, providers, payers, and federal/state financing. For policymakers, this temporary expansion may serve as a natural experiment for assessing which forms of telehealth services successfully expand access to care and should become permanent healthcare policy.