Increase in the use of telehealth is one of the most prominent health consumption changes we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, some barriers to telehealth adoption still remain on the consumer end. In a recent telehealth survey report by the American Medical Association, one of the biggest barriers to providing telehealth was the lack of insurer coverage for telehealth services. But what happens in the presence of reimbursement parity?
Researchers from Brown University School of Public Health, Boston University School of Public Health, and Cambridge published the results of their study on change in telehealth use for contraception in the light of reimbursement parity mandates. These mandates, implemented by some states in the US, require insurance companies to reimburse their clients for in-person visits and telehealth at the same rate. The study also compared the association of parity mandates with telehealth and overall contraceptive visits.
The researchers included more than 300 million commercially insured females in their study, and they identified more than 927,000 contraceptive claims. Outpatient contraceptive visits declined significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, tele-contraceptive visits showed a sharp increase. Researchers also found that before the pandemic, telehealth visits for contraception were only 1.5% of the total visits, whereas, after the pandemic began, these visits increased to 30.5% in parity states and 21.6% in non-parity states.
Although participants from parity states showed a significant preference for telehealth visits, the overall contraceptive encounters did not increase. Perhaps parity policies offered an alternative to women who were already using contraceptive consultations, but they did not improve overall contraceptive encounters. Further studies with large and more diverse samples could explore the role of telehealth in increasing the utilization of contraceptive care.