2 states expanded telehealth reimbursement this year, but Medicaid policies are still inconsistent

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Medicaid telehealth policies are slowly evolving, but gaps remains when it comes to store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring.

State Medicaid programs are making incremental progress when it comes to telehealth reimbursement, but there are still broad discrepancies among state policies, according to the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP).

A biannual update to CCHP’s report on state telehealth laws and reimbursement policies indicates that two states—Maryland and Oklahoma—have implemented new reimbursement policies for store-and-forward telehealth since the organization’s last update in April. Oklahoma also added new payment policies for remote patient monitoring, but CCHP removed Hawaii and Kentucky from that list because there was no indication those states had implemented laws that included reimbursement for remote patient monitoring.

RELATED: More than half of providers plan to expand telehealth offerings, survey shows

As it stands, 48 states and Washington, D.C., provide reimbursement for telehealth that uses live video. Over the last two years, store-and-forward reimbursement has been steadily increasing, but currently just 15 states have enacted some kind of policy. Twenty-one states reimburse for remote patient monitoring, and just nine states pay for all three methods of telehealth.

Two additional states have enacted laws governing private payer reimbursement for telehealth this year, bringing the total to 36 plus the District of Columbia.

RELATED: Trump’s public health emergency declaration expands access to telehealth addiction treatment

Meanwhile, a specific specialty of telehealth may be poised for significant growth over the next five years. Frost and Sullivan analysts predict that the telemental health market will grow 22.5% by 2021, with market revenue reaching more than $746 million. Some of the key drivers for that growth include a higher incidence of mental health conditions, a shortage of mental health professionals and the growing challenges associated with substance abuse.

Telehealth is expected to play a more prominent role in the opioid crisis after President Donald Trump declared a national public health emergency, which paves the way for telehealth addiction treatment.