Telehealth was a matter of rarity last year. This year, amidst the pandemic situation, it has emerged to be a common practice. When the pandemic started, the usage of telehealth went up from around 13,000 visits per week to about 1.7 million. This was only among Medicare recipients. During mid-March and mid-June, when the pandemic was at its peak, over 9 million people reported having availed of telemedicine services. The number of telehealth claims has increased over 4,000 percent than that of last year.
However, with time, the scenario is gradually beginning to change. The insurance providers are trying to pull back some of their coverages for telemedicine for issues that are non-COVID. UnitedHealthcare, one of the renowned insurance providers, have rolled back all of their policies, which waived co-pays or other fees for appointments related to non-COVID issues. Several other plans have extended their period of coverage to the end of the current year, with only two free sessions per consumer.
Entire Healthcare System under Pressure
All the healthcare providers and the hospital system are in a tricky situation. With an increased number of testing for treating infected patients while expanding the capacity of the intensive care unit, they have met several challenges this year. On top of that, they are not sure whether they will lose telemedicine payments once the emergency for the pandemic ends or what to expect from the private health insurers.
These challenges have created unprecedented financial pressure on the country’s healthcare system. The American Hospital Association has estimated the monthly loss of the healthcare system to be around $50.7 billion.
All in all, the above financial crisis has put telehealth in a risky situation. It will not be a matter of surprise if all the health insurance providers cease to provide any coverage for telehealth soon. Though some might continue providing coverage, it will be with several restrictions.