In 32 states and the District of Columbia, health care services conveniently delivered via smart phones, computers, and other electronic communications are generally covered by insurers. These states, along with our nation’s capitol, have legislation that requires health insurers to cover health care delivered by telehealth if they pay for that same service when provided “in person.”
Unfortunately Pennsylvania does not yet have this legislation. That’s holding back the use of telehealth to increase access to care and convenience for Pennsylvanians.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth—or telemedicine—is the exchange of medical information from one site to another via electronic communications in order to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Two-way video, email, smartphones, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology can be used to deliver high-quality health care through telehealth.
Telehealth is used in many aspects of health care, including treatment of strokes, burns, heart problems, diabetes, behavioral health, and more.
What are the benefits of telehealth?
Telehealth services increase access to care, eliminate travel time and costs, and allow for convenient treatment from a certified health care professional. Telehealth has brought a new level of convenience and a new way for people in rural areas and elsewhere to see specialists.
Are telehealth services covered by insurers in Pennsylvania?
Sometimes, but by no means always, or even usually. It all depends on the type of insurance—which health plan you have—and the type of health care service.
Pennsylvania hospitals and other providers want to make more use of telehealth to provide high-quality, convenient health care to Pennsylvanians across the state. But telehealth services putting in place means investing in technology, equipment, and new ways of providing medical care.
It’s difficult for hospitals to make those investments without knowing if insurance companies will pay them for these services.
What’s the solution? How can we get telehealth covered in PA?
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering legislation that would help this situation. This legislation would:
- Define the key components of telemedicine
- Set licensing requirements
- Require health insurers to provide reimbursement for telemedicine services if they pay for the same service in person
Find out more about telehealth and what it could do for Pennsylvania. Let’s hope Pennsylvania lawmakers act on this important issue soon!