The bill will extend current telehealth access for Medicare patients, but why should business owners care about changes to Medicare?

There is no doubt that you can relate to at least one of these scenarios:

  • A child gets sick and their parents spend countless hours at the doctor’s offices trying to diagnose them and provide treatment. The parents now must take time off work, hire babysitters for their other children, etc.
  • A common cold causes an employee to miss work in order to see a doctor when a virtual appointment would have sufficed.
  • Refilling a prescription can require an in-person doctor visit multiple times a year, having to arrange for childcare or leave work to get to the doctor’s office.

Our health care system wastes more than just money, it also wastes our time. Telehealth solutions are a way for everyone to save time while allowing us to improve productivity and lower costs. Yet, in our post-pandemic society, it is at risk of disappearing. The proposed Telehealth Extension and Evaluation Act would extend current Medicare telehealth access for patients through 2024. But the question is why should business owners care about changes to Medicare?

To start with, what happens in Medicare often becomes the standard by which health care is delivered. Second, employers pay part of the cost of Medicare through employer taxes, so any reduction in health care costs within Medicare and Medicaid benefits them. This cost reduction comes with increased service delivery and productivity gains. The big deal here is that the benefits associated with virtual care can have a dramatic effect on reducing claims and the overall costs of health care if the system is implemented correctly.

Telehealth and private insurance

While this legislation will have a monumental impact on public health insurance, it may not do the same for private plans. Offering your employees telehealth, at your additional cost, won’t lower your rate through the traditional insurance system. But today, 60% of American employers have opted out of the traditional system and built self-insured plans. With this system, any reduction in claims goes right into the employee and employer’s pockets. By increasing the benefits, employers get higher productivity and a better advantage in employee recruitment and retention.

What’s the future of telehealth as a whole?

Telehealth is one big step towards a more efficient and more convenient system. By increasing confidence in the system, there is an ability to enhance the relationship between a medical provider and a patient, improving health care outcomes while reducing claims costs. This bill is a trendsetter because it says the customer’s time actually matters. Most self-insured companies and traditional insurance companies use “reference-based pricing,” which uses Medicare as the reference for payment pricing. As a result, telehealth will become an established standard in the industry.

What is happening in every area of technology is going to happen in health care (albeit more slowly due to regulations): telehealth will give us our time back. Consumers demand things at their fingertips that save them time—which is exactly what telehealth offers. As consumers see this benefit, they will demand it to become a norm. If this bill passes, we can expect that more states will pass legislation similar to the Telehealth Extension and Evaluation Act for private health care as well, making these pandemic offerings permanent.

Paul Johnson is CEO of Redirect Health.

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