Telehealth in the States During COVID-19

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The highly infectious COVID-19 has people quarantining because they are infected or staying at home to reduce their risk of infection. However, many people still need to access health services not related to the treatment of COVID-19. Telehealth has emerged as one of the vital tools used in addressing our current reality in a COVID-19 world and policymakers are making swift changes to ensure the flexibility to use the technology is there.

Telehealth is the use of technology to provide health services when the patient and provider are not in the same location. It has been in existence for decades and had been slowly gaining acceptance in recent years. There is federal telehealth policy primarily related to Medicare and state telehealth policy addressing Medicaid and private insurance. Pre-COVID-19, each state had different approaches to telehealth policy. Some states had more expansive policies such as covering most services in their Medicaid program if telehealth was used to another Medicaid program only allowing it only for certain specialties such as mental and behavioral health services. In the COVID-19 world, this has changed dramatically. While state policies do still vary, there are themes that have emerged on the state level.

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