COVID-19 has fueled the adoption of telehealth services in the state. In March 2020, to reduce the risk of patients contracting COVID-19, Penn State Health urgently expanded telemedicine access from its pilot phase for COVID-19 testing, urgent care, and dermatology patients. Chris LaCoe, the health system’s VP of Operations, anticipates that the services will only increase, “adding that he believes anywhere from 20-25 percent of visits might become virtual visits in the near future, including postoperative follow-ups”.
The state government, however, is trying to play catch-up with the rise in demand for telehealth. Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a bill in April 2020 that would have required insurers to pay for remote doctor’s visits and currently, guidance is not provided on payment parity in telemedicine in the state. In addition, Pennsylvania does not yet belong to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, a program that expedites the licensing process for out-of-state providers.
However, in March 2020, as a response to COVID-19, an emergency declaration expanded access for Medicare patients, allowing for Medicare reimbursements for specialty consultations and telepsychiatry. Additionally, many other health insurers in the state have updated their telemedicine policies in response to the crisis, but providers need to check with each insurer to make sure they are adhering to the plan’s details for maximum reimbursement.
Although the state will temporarily “waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies”, since doctors have the same liability with telemedicine visits as they do with face to face visits, it is recommended that doctors carry insurance that specifically covers telemedicine.