Washington, D.C. — Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), released the following statement urging all health insurance carriers to continue broad coverage and payment parity of telehealth services through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
“As health care organizations across the country have quickly implemented changes to help meet the needs of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the availability of covered telehealth services is one positive change that should be made permanent.
“ACOG applauds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its quick response to the need for telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and for its recommendations that states lift restrictive policies, as these actions have improved patients’ access to telehealth and other remote management services. We also applaud national health plans that voluntarily made changes to policies, including coverage and payment parity of audio-only visits and remote patient monitoring.
“ACOG now calls on all payers to maintain expanded telehealth coverage policies through 2020 and in all the plan years to come. We urge all payers to build upon recent successes by ensuring that patients can regularly access covered telehealth services.
“The coverage and payment policies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic have expanded access to evidence-based telehealth services and improved the ability of obstetrician–gynecologists to provide quality, patient-centered care. While states are in various stages of reopening, contracting COVID-19 remains a very real threat. Therefore, it is critical that insurance coverage policies allow patients to seek care in the safest possible way, including through telehealth and other remote services, and that payers inform enrollees about their telehealth coverage options.
“ACOG requests that payers ensure coverage and payment parity for audio-only and audio-video visits so that patients across all communities can benefit from telehealth. Payers must also refrain from adding additional barriers that would limit patients’ ability to receive telehealth services from their typical in-network physician.
“Additionally, the ability to receive durable medical equipment benefits by prescription should be expanded so that all patients can have the at-home equipment they need for remote prenatal and postpartum visits.
“Research has shown the benefits of telehealth in obstetric and gynecologic care. In many cases, these visits are deemed to be as effective as, or without statistically significant differences in outcomes from, in-person visits. For certain conditions, telehealth helps address barriers to access, reduces the number of unscheduled office visits, decreases ER visits and readmissions to the hospital, and improves rates of adherence to treatment guidelines. Patients often prefer telehealth visits in place of some in-person visits.
“Telehealth visits with in-network health care practitioners should be considered a standard benefit for all patients in perpetuity. We must maintain the progress we have made during this public health crisis and make telehealth more widely available, not just in times of national emergency.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of 60,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. www.acog.org