Telehealth Medicaid & State Policy

CCHP’s annual survey and analysis of state telehealth laws and reimbursement policies shows that no two states approach telehealth in the same way.

View an interactive map containing state telehealth laws and reimbursement policies. Access the PDF version of the report, or take a look at the infograph which summarizes the report!

Established by legislation in 1965, Medicaid is a medical assistance entitlement program for low-income families. Medicaid is America’s largest medical and health-related funding source for the poor. Though the program is jointly funded by federal and state governments, the federal government allows each state to set many features for their programs.  States may reimburse for telehealth under Medicaid so long as the service satisfies federal requirements of efficiency, economy and quality of care.  Extensive control is given to states to decide how to structure and administer their Medicaid telehealth policy. States are not required to submit a state plan amendment (SPA) when deciding to reimburse for services delivered via telehealth if they are reimbursed the same way/amount as services delivered via face-to-face. (https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/telemed/index.html).

Fifty States, Fifty Approaches

CCHP’s annual analysis of state telehealth Medicaid policies showed that although states occasionally use similar language in their policies, no two states are alike in how telehealth is actually defined and regulated. These differences create a confusing environment for those using telehealth, particularly health care systems that provide care in multiple states.

Fall 2017 Highlights

CCHP’s most recent fifty-state survey of state telehealth laws and Medicaid program policies was completed in October 2017. The full PDF report is available, as is an interactive map of existing and pending telehealth-related policies by state. Below are some key findings:

  • 48 states and Washington, DC provide reimbursement for some form of live video in Medicaid fee-for-service.  This has remained constant since CCHP’s April 2017 edition of this report.
  • 15 states provide reimbursement for store-and-forward.  2 states, Maryland and Oklahoma, have been added since April 2017.
  • 21 state Medicaid programs provide reimbursement for remote patient monitoring (RPM).  While one state (OK) added reimbursement for RPM since April 2017, CCHP removed two states from the list due to no evidence of Medicaid programs implementing previously passed laws that included RPM reimbursement, resulting in a net loss of one state.
  • Although the practice of restricting reimbursable telehealth services to rural or underserved areas, as is done in the Medicare program, is decreasing, some states continue to maintain this policy.  6 states currently have some form of a geographic restriction. 
  • The practice of limiting the type of facility that can serve as an originating site has remained constant, at 23 states, since April 2017.  
  • 32 state Medicaid programs offer a transmission or facility fee when telehealth is used.  This number is up one since CCHP’s April 2017 update.
  • The number of states with private payer laws has increased by two, since April 2017, with 36 states and DC having laws addressing private payer reimbursement for telehealth.

Telehealth and Private Payers

Many private payer insurance plans do reimburse for telehealth-delivered services; however, federal law does not require these payers to provide coverage for any type of telehealth-delivered service. Some states have passed their own private payer laws, affecting private payer plans that operate in those states. Currently, thirty-four states and DC have some private payer-related reimbursement laws. Some states mandate some sort of reimbursement, while others mandate reimbursement at the same level as in-person care under certain conditions.

Regulations governing telehealth also vary across states, with limitations on cross-state licensing of health professionals being the most restrictive. Additionally, state health professional boards are releasing special telehealth standards for practitioners in their state.  

Pending Telehealth Legislation

Each year, new federal and state legislation is introduced to address some of the barriers to telehealth use. On the state level, more than 200 telehealth-related bills were introduced in the 2017 legislative session, the majority of which addressed reimbursement in Medicaid programs and/or among private payers, established telehealth professional board standards, and addressed cross state licensing. Some legislation also sought to establish telehealth pilot programs to test the efficacy and/or cost effectiveness of telehealth in public programs. CCHP tracks pending legislation and regulation in the states on its Pending Legislation and Regulation page.

For further information, visit CCHP’s State Reimbursement map.