- Mental healthcare led telehealth utilization for the sixth straight month in April, representing 68.4% of telehealth claim lines among privately insured patients, according to Fair Health’s April telehealth report.
- Although nationwide demand for telehealth services dipped by 5.4% from March to April this year, the percentage of telehealth claims related to mental health services grew for the fourth consecutive month.
- The report comes as lawmakers debate making pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities permanent after mental healthcare utilization increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Treatment rates for some psychiatric illnesses rose by between 10 and 20 percent during the first year of the pandemic due to increased demand and a higher supply of providers available to offer care via telehealth, according to researchers at RAND.
Interest in telehealth even extends to populations that may be less comfortable with technology, including the elderly. In 2022, a Rock Health survey of Americans found nearly 40% preferred telemedicine to in-person care for accessing mental healthcare.
Federal lawmakers have until the end of 2024 to make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent or create policy versions that would address payment parity, audio-only telehealth reimbursement and interstate licensures.
Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the CONNECT for Health Act for a second time in Congress. The updated bill, which aims to make pandemic-era virtual care flexibilities permanent, would remove geographic restrictions on telehealth services and the six-month in-person requirement for telemental healthcare.
Though telehealth has “unbelievably widespread support,” Joe Ganley, vice president of government relations and regulatory affairs at Athenahealth, told Axios that cost is a potential hurdle. One report from the Committee for a Responsible Budget estimated that making telehealth expansions permanent could cost Medicare $25 billion over 10 years.