Cooperating for better care.

James McElligott

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Telemedicine parity laws slowly spread

MedPage Today reports that 24 states and Washington, D.C.,  have enacted “parity laws requiring comparable coverage of and reimbursement for services delivered via telemedicine as is available for in-person services, by state-approved private insurance plans, state employee medical plans, and Medicaid.”

That’s up three states from last September.

“Health insurers in states still lacking parity laws are feeling the pressure, according to a major South Carolina healthcare provider….”

“Ninety percent of the private insurance [in South Carolina] is Blue Cross Blue Shield,”  pediatrician James McElligott,  M.D., medical director for telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health, told MedPage Today. “‘They have each year taken baby steps [in telemedicine reimbursement]. [That’s] the main reason we are not going for parity legislation.”‘

“Telemedicine reimbursement is ‘not as good as we need, but we’re working with Blue Cross Blue Shield so that would cover the vast majority of the state,’ McElligott says. ”Insurers in states still lacking parity laws hope to avoid passage of such laws by responding to demands for greater coverage of telemedicine….”

“Medicare reimbursement of telemedicine services, the only category not covered by the ATA survey, remains a more daunting challenge to states with a particular kind of geography, such as South Carolina. In that state, ’44 out of 46 counties are rural by our definitions, but not by [Medicare’s],’ McElligott says. “It’s almost as if telehealth is only acceptable if you’re North Dakota, where you have these huge distances.”‘


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