Legal mandates for Idaho insurers to cover telehealth services at the same rate as in-person visits likely aren’t the best route for ensuring that telehealth payment parity remains, a state group of health care experts learned this week, writes Post Register reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel. Idaho’s Telehealth Taskforce concluded its meetings Wednesday. Since January, the state-founded group has met regularly to discuss revamping telehealth in Idaho.
Idaho’s telehealth laws have been drastically overhauled in the past five years, the Idaho Press reported, but the task force has said several obstacles prevent it from being as widespread as it could. Rural areas sometimes don’t have nearby doctors or reliable broadband. Idaho’s legal definition is too narrow, task force members worry, and it could exclude future technologies.
Yet another gap for telehealth in Idaho: How it’s paid for.
Most states have laws that, to some extent, require insurers pay for telehealth services at parity with in-person services, the Post Register previously reported. Idaho doesn’t.
As the pandemic made many people concerned about public interactions, more Idahoans sought telehealth services and many Idaho insurers covered telehealth at parity. Those promises by insurers mostly last until the end of the year or the end of the pandemic.
“Without an edict from the Department (of Insurance), all the carriers agreed to pay at parity,” agency Director Dean Cameron told the taskforce.
Whether those changes stay is unclear.
Cameron said his agency doesn’t have statutory authority to require telehealth payment parity. Pushing for change in the statehouse likely won’t work, said Cameron, a former Republican state legislator of 25 years.
“After spending at least a minute or two in the Legislature and knowing the process and philosophy of many of the legislators, I think they would have a hard time doing that. I think that would be an uphill battle,” he said.
You can read Pfannenstiel’s full story here at postregister.com, or pick up today’s Sunday/Monday edition of the Idaho Press; it’s on the front page.
Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.