Although flexibilities such as telehealth have been critical to reducing obstacles to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges must be considered before making any changes permanent, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday in a new analysis.
For example, the agency said, increased costs to permanently support telehealth in addition to in-person services need to be calculated. Also, the quality of telehealth services will need to be fully analyzed to ensure the best possible care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the report.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government increased funding and service flexibility for Medicare and Medicaid, which included waiving certain requirements in order to expand beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services. Those waivers resulted in a significant bump up in telehealth services for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
The weekly average for the services provided via audio and audio-video technology came in at about 325,000 in mid-March 2020 and then peaked at about 1.9 million in mid-April 2020.