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Analysis

Idaho Moves to Permanently Loosen Telehealth Rules

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   June 24, 2020

Idaho's use of telehealth increased from 3,000 sessions from March-May 2019 to 117,000 sessions during the same time period in 2020, representing a 40-fold increase.

Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a new executive order this week to permanently loosen the telehealth and other healthcare access rules that had been temporarily waived because of COVID-19.

“By suspending certain rules during the pandemic—such as allowing the use of Zoom, Facetime and other applications and making it easier for providers to offer telehealth services—we’ve been able to address the critical shortage of medical providers in every county in the state,” Governor Little said in a statement.

Idaho's telehealth usage has skyrocketed in recent months.

It went from 3,000 telehealth sessions from March-May 2019 to 117,000 sessions during the same time period in 2020, representing a 40-fold increase, according to the governor's office.

The new executive order asks its state agencies "to finalize the rule changes for presentation to the Idaho Legislature in January of 2021."

It's the latest in a growing movement across the country to permanently waive telehealth access rules and coverage allowances.

Last month, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said it would permanently cover virtual visits with in-network providers effective immediately.

Earlier this month, two U.S. representatives introduced a bill that would make Medicare reimbursement permanent for certain telehealth services.

The bipartisan Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth, or  HEALTH Act, would codify Medicare reimbursement for community health centers and rural health clinics for telehealth services.

Telehealth also appears to have won bipartisan support from key U.S. senators based on comments and the line of questioning that occurred in a U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions hearing last week.

In addition, and CMS Administrator Seema Verma has said she "can't imagine going back" to a world without expanded telehealth access.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.


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