Informing Telehealth Policy to Preserve and Expand Equitable Access in New York State
December 8, 2023
The use of telehealth skyrocketed in New York State during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While telehealth has tapered off some, it is here to stay as an option for patients. Research shows that telehealth can expand access to care, lower no-show rates, increase patient satisfaction, and improve patient outcomes. However, uneven telehealth use during the pandemic has exacerbated—not reduced—disparities in health care access. Since the Public Health Emergency (PHE) expired in May 2023, the State and federal government have been reconsidering telehealth policies. In some cases, commercial and public payers are considering removing coverage for phone visits—a primary way that many patients of color and low-income patients access telehealth. The end of the PHE offers an opportunity for New York State to recalibrate telehealth policies to capitalize on successes and address pain points. Careful examination of telehealth policies is needed to ensure that all patients have equitable access to primary care. In 2023, NYHealth awarded a grant to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to examine emerging telehealth policies, regulations, payments, best practices, and case studies to recommend changes that will preserve and expand equitable access to telehealth in New York State.
Under this grant, Manatt will produce a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of telehealth in New York State. It will interview stakeholders, representing diverse perspectives and expertise, to generate a State-specific understanding of issues and opportunities in telehealth policy and identify case studies on high-impact telehealth service delivery models. Manatt will also analyze the telehealth policy landscape at the State and federal levels to find examples of effective policy solutions from other states, with a focus on promoting equitable access. It will delve into State-specific telehealth issues including coverage and reimbursement; virtual care modalities; regulations; originating site requirements; and policies affecting access to telehealth services. In addition, Manatt will present data on telehealth utilization to demonstrate uptake of telehealth across the State and highlight remaining gaps and disparities in access. Data will depict trends before, during, and after the PHE and be disaggregated by patient demographics, payer type, and care specialty, as available. Manatt will disseminate its findings to the media, policymakers, providers, consumers, advocates, and other health care-decision makers across New York State to inform timely policy conversations.