Telehealth made up almost half of all Medicare beneficiaries’ primary care use in April

Dive Short:

Fee-for-service Medicare recipients embraced telehealth for primary care at extraordinary rates as COVID-19 spread in the U.S., according to a new HHS report.
The report, released Tuesday by HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, evaluated claims information from January through early June and discovered FFS Medicare recipients use of in-person primary care fell sharply mid-March, while telehealth visits progressively ticked as much as make up the deficit. Practically half– 43.5% — of all Medicare medical care check outs were being conducted through telehealth in April. Thats up from simply 0.1% in February.
Both urban and rural locations saw an increase in use, though it was more significant in city counties. Companies in rural counties saw a smaller sized increase in virtual care check outs as a proportion of all medical care visits in March and April, and a reduction in May. By comparison, companies in metropolitan counties saw greater virtual care usage in March and April and a smaller dip in May.

Dive Insight:

The Trump administration unwinded regulative barriers to telehealth usage beginning in March as the pandemic shuttered services, including medical professionals offices, and healthcare facilities protected resources to care for COVID-19 clients. Use of main care flatlined as a result, and telehealth rose as a crucial modality for clients to retain access to the health care system, while permitting suppliers to recoup lost profits.

The report comes as Congress arguments a fifth round of COVID-19 relief legislation, and telehealth suppliers clamor to have the unwinded policies, the bulk of which are short-term, codified into law. Its likely some however not all of the regulative modifications will remain post-pandemic, and specialists believe Congress will allow HHS to continue spending for telehealth more kindly in its federal payer programs.

However, as COVID-19 cases dipped due to strict stay-at-home orders and social distancing in mid-April through May, FFS Medicare recipients use of virtual care also decreased slightly, however appears to have actually leveled off by the beginning of June, the report discovered.

Thats up from simply 0.1% in February.
Both urban and rural locations saw an increase in usage, though it was more significant in city counties. Service providers in rural counties saw a smaller sized boost in virtual care visits as a percentage of all primary care gos to in March and April, and a decline in May. By contrast, service providers in city counties saw greater virtual care usage in March and April and a smaller sized dip in May.

More rural states Iowa, South Dakota and Oklahoma saw a one-third dive in primary care telehealth gos to in April. The state with the most affordable telehealth adoption, Nebraska, saw virtual care grow to account for up to 22% of all medical care gos to.

Rebecca Pifer/Healthcare Dive, information from ASPE
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Telehealth has long been promoted as a method to bring health care to the masses, specifically those in rural locations without a service provider close geographically. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York saw the strongest growth in telehealth main care check outs after the emergency statement, the report discovered.

Medicare recipients particularly had actually been blocked from virtual care, as it was just allowable in the federal program under stringent areas and situations. Now, 6 months into the national emergency situation statement enabling Medicare to repay more broadly for telehealth, 135 telehealth services are covered by FFS Medicare for its nearly 40 million beneficiaries and the U.S. has experienced a meteroric rise in virtual care usage.