Telehealth Private Payers Reimbursement: There is no federal mandate requiring private payers to reimburse for telehealth services, but several states have enacted telehealth parity laws. Parity laws compel payers to cover the same types of services provided through telehealth as those that are provided face-to-face. They also require payers to reimburse telehealth services at the same payment rate as in-clinic services.
Many doctors who choose to offer virtual visits to their patients will do so as part of a direct-pay or concierge practice model. Instead of having their doctor bill through an insurance carrier, these patients might have a high-deductible insurance plan for emergencies and then pay a yearly fee to essentially have their doctor on retainer. The patients might pay an additional convenience fee for each virtual visit, or just have access to virtual visits with their doctor as part of their subscription fee for the practice.
One especially successful telemedicine project funded by the government was called the Space Technology Applied to Rural Papago Advanced Health Care (STARPAHC), and was a partnership between NASA and the Indian Health Services. The program funded remote medical services to Native Americans living on the Papago Reservation in Arizona and astronauts in space! Projects like STARPAHC drove research in medical engineering, and helped expand advancements in telemedicine. The next few decades saw continued innovations in telemedicine and wider research at universities, medical centers and research companies.
It has been around for decades, but in recent years private insurers, employers, and government programs have expanded their coverage. By 2016 at least half of U.S. healthcare institutions and hospitals were using some form of telehealth. And last September the Senate passed a bill that will expand Medicare coverage for telehealth services, if it’s signed into law.