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As pandemic regs expire, states get tougher on telehealth: report


 

Telemedicine across state lines

The report’s contention about the difficulty of conducting telehealth encounters across most state lines seems to be at odds with the growth in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which makes it easier for physicians in one compact member state to get licensed in others. Currently, 35 states belong to the compact, Joe Knickrehm, vice president of communications for the Federation of State Medical Boards, told this news organization.

In addition, he says, “12 state boards issue a special purpose license, telemedicine license or certificate, or license to practice medicine across state lines to allow for the practice of telemedicine.”

The catch, Dr. Mehrotra says, is that, despite the streamlining of license applications in compact member states, the fees charged by the state boards are still very high – a point that the report also makes. “If I want to have broad scope of practice, I’d have to pay thousands of dollars to many states. The license fees start to add up. Also, I have to keep track of each state’s CME requirements, which are all different. Keeping up with all of that is an administration burden, and it’s a pain.”

Mr. Knickrehm contends that obtaining multiple licenses via the compact “is generally less expensive for physicians than the cost of requesting transcripts, fingerprints, and other necessary paperwork each time they apply for licensure in a new state. Physicians are seeing the benefits of an expedited process that allows them to begin practicing more quickly [in other states].”

Dr. Mehrotra says he has seen the same retrenchment in state telehealth regulations that the report references. However, he says, “CMS [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] has signaled that at least through 2022 and maybe into 2023, they’ll continue their extensions of telemedicine [pandemic regulations].” After that, Congress would have to decide whether to make the changes permanent.

“Right now, it’s hard for me to see how a payer is going to pull back on telehealth, unless there’s ample evidence of overuse of telehealth,” he argues. “With the public and providers liking telehealth, it’s hard to say on theoretical grounds that we should stop using it. That’s why Medicare and others have extended it and why Congress will too.”

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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