You may be hearing the word telehealth coming up more frequently these days. It’s possible you’ve already had some telehealth appointments or used remote health services yourself! Telehealth is the use of digital technology via video call, mobile phone, e-mail, and other forms of secure electronic communication between patients and their health care providers.
Because telehealth is still relatively new, each state has adopted its own laws regarding coverage of telehealth services by insurance. In this post, we’ll explain the range of telehealth services you may be able to access while shelter-in-place and social distancing measures remain active due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll also cover what you should know when you’re considering paying for telehealth appointments with a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA).
The Rise of Telehealth
As access to technology has increased and cybersecurity has improved, telehealth has grown. While telehealth services have seen a sharp uptick because of COVID-19, telehealth has been on the rise for years as an option for patients and health care providers when in-person appointments aren’t possible and for online tracking of patient health data.
Telehealth eases the burden of patients for whom transportation is difficult and helps caregivers who would otherwise have to take a day off work to bring their loved one to a medical appointment. It especially benefits older adults who struggle with transportation or mobility, and those living in remote areas with limited access to health care providers.
Telehealth has also been growing in popularity as a way to reduce cost of health care services, increase access to more people, and improve health care outcomes for patients. Much of this can be attributed to telehealth’s successful shift to a patient-centered care model. For example, telehealth offers health care guidance that is increasingly convenient. Patients can arrange an appointment outside of core business hours, reducing the number of missed workdays or hours. It also provides timely appointments, as patients don’t have to wait days to weeks to see a care provider. Conversely, an expedited telehealth appointment can help reduce the severity of health complications, especially for real-time monitoring of chronic illness. Notably, telehealth has also begun to play a key role in preventive medicine, allowing patients and health care providers to recognize potential health issues before they became a problem.
These are only a few of the benefits of telehealth that have made it a popular option for health care providers and patients alike, as a complement to traditional health care services, and as an alternative for those who cannot easily obtain or attend in-person visits. Now let’s take a deeper dive into the most common types of telehealth services available.
Using FSA or HSA Funds for Telehealth Services
As telehealth has expanded over the years and gained popularity, federal and state governments and insurance companies have had to adopt policies relating to the coverage. Would it be treated the same as the in-person appointments and health services being replaced?
According to the American Telehealth Association (ATA), 32 states and Washington D.C. require private insurance companies to cover telehealth as they would in-person services, and most insurance providers cover at least some services. In addition, the ATA shares that Medicare and Medicaid in all states cover certain aspects of telehealth services, but it can vary widely. It’s best to always check with your benefits provider to learn if a telehealth service you are seeking may be covered.
Generally, if a telehealth appointment with a health care provider is replacing an in-person visit, meaning it is medically necessary, you should be able to pay for it using your tax-free FSA and HSA funds.
Even some online therapy apps can accept FSA and HSA payments for services. However, if you are unsure about coverage with your FSA or HSA, it is best to always check with your benefits provider and to save your receipts for reimbursement.