A report has been issued by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) that describes patterns in Medicare utilization and makes suggestions to policymakers in order to assist future telehealth optimization. The BPC, according to its website, is a Washington, DC-based think tank that actively encourages bipartisanship by fusing the greatest concepts from both parties to improve opportunity, security, and health for all U.S. citizens. The organization provides policymakers with policy solutions to issues in a variety of sectors including infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
The BPC examined how Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth after impediments to virtual treatment were removed in its latest study on the subject. According to the survey, only Medicare patients who lived in rural areas frequently used telehealth prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. But once the pandemic struck in 2020, regulatory adjustments made it more common for Medicare patients to use telehealth. The study revealed that prior to the pandemic, the percentage of Medicare recipients who used telemedicine was around 1%. In April 2020 telehealth was a factor in almost a third of all Medicare claims. Since then, researchers have collected information on telehealth usage, including demographics and preferred virtual care channels, and have examined the effects of the regulatory flexibilities. However, the issue of whether regulatory flexibility should persist when the public health emergency comes to an end still has to be addressed.
Hence, the BPC began collecting information to help address the issue. The group performed a national consumer survey on telehealth, evaluated more than 200 papers, and examined Medicare fee-for-service telehealth utilization. After gathering the data the BPC presented its results and produced a list of suggestions for prospective policy adjustments. The results showed that telehealth was of major benefit to patients during the pandemic. According to the survey, primary care accounted for 39% of telehealth visits during the first 3 quarters of 2021.
In response to the findings, the BPC made a number of recommendations for the future of telehealth policy. The BPC considers preserving benefit transparency and consumer safeguards to be equally important to promoting fair access to healthcare. According to the organization, government agencies should strive to improve policies against fraud, waste, and abuse, encourage provider involvement, improve the quality of data for future planning, and maximize reimbursement efforts. In terms of behavioral health, the BPC advises policy to eliminate excessive in-person requirements and to encourage the continued assessment of prescriptions for medications via telehealth. Finally, The BPC advises providing access to audio-only primary care support, keeping virtual primary care services available for two years after the pandemic ends, and assessing compensation for these services in order to perhaps try new payment models.