Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to New York’s existing telehealth bill that will provide health insurance coverage for telemedicine. The move is significant as less than half of states have telemedicine coverage rules on the books.
According to the amendment, telemedicine services can be provided by a range of individuals from physicians to nurses to psychologists and social workers – a broad definition that could reshape patient care in New York. The changes also apply to those who have Medicaid coverage which could open up a new form of healthcare access for low-income New Yorkers.
The amendment also increases the emphasis on remote monitoring for individuals who are aging or have a chronic illness.
Telehealth technology continues to improve but the lack of clear reimbursements has stymied adoption on a nationwide level. Some states like New York have adopted payment and coverage guidelines but these often differ state to state creating a patchwork of coverage options for Americans.
The changes in New York will go into force on January 1, 2016, and commercial insurers will be required to cover telemedicine without increasing co-pays for services. Notably, the amendment also has a fairly wide definition for what constitutes telemedicine so we may see providers ramp up their offerings considerably.
Full guidance for providers and insurers on the rule change is expected from the New York State Department of Health later this year.