In one of the most comprehensive, freely available webpages that tracks telehealth reimbursement, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website came to our attention this week.
The Importance of Definitions
The NCSL webpage starts by giving one of the best and most succinct definitions of telehealth as, “the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance.” This broad definition is in line with the federal government’s definition of telehealth since 1997. We encourage our colleagues to note the difference between this definition and those offered by other groups issuing policy with a limited focus on practice-related telecommunication technologies. With the convergence of technologies across devices and increased access to massive amounts of data, it makes sense to be as inclusive as possible when establishing policy that will be time-consuming to redefine later.
The NCSL webpage then goes on to explain:
The two types of telehealth applications are real-time communication and store-and-forward. Real-time communication allows patients to connect with providers via video conference, telephone or a home health monitoring device, while store-and-forward refers to transmission of data, images, sound or video from one care site to another for evaluation.
More to the point, the NCSL website has this say about telehealth reimbursement across the 50 United States:
The most common path being taken by states is to cover telehealth services in the Medicaid program. In fact, 42 states now provide some form of Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services. Another avenue is for states to require private insurance plans to cover telehealth services. 17 states now require private insurance plans in the state to cover telehealth services. Missouri and Montana will join this list in January 2014, and Arizona in January of 2015.
The NCSL webpage gives a colored state-by state graphic that shows states that cover Medicaid and private insurance benefits. Their graphic for telehealth reimbursement is only surpassed by a detailed grid that lists:
- current reimbursement for Medicaid
- which states require private insurance reimbursement for telehealth and
- relevant statutes and codes for each state
We give our kudos to NCSL and are delighted to point you to their impressively clear web page here.