New York State Department of Health Announces Medicaid Telehealth Coverage Extended Beyond COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Telehealth Medicaid Coverage to Continue Through 2024

More Than 80 Percent of New Yorkers Surveyed Used Telehealth During Past Two Years

Nearly Half of Telehealth Users Report Using Therapy to Treat Mental Health

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 31, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health announced that New York State Medicaid will continue to provide comprehensive coverage of telehealth through Dec. 31, 2024. Telehealth services - the use of electronic information and communication technologies to deliver health care to patients at a distance - expanded dramatically during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), which ended last spring.

"Telehealth services were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent exposure to the virus, but we quickly saw an increase in demand and telehealth became a preferred method of care for many New Yorkers," New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. McDonald said. "With recent changes to federal health care regulations, these telehealth services will continue to be covered for New Yorkers enrolled in Medicaid through the end of next year."

In New York State, telehealth has become a widely accepted alternative to in-person care for Medicaid members. Medicaid requires providers to offer in-person care, with the option of adding telehealth to their practice if it is within the scope and appropriate for their services, so that patients can choose between the two modes of care.
"The pandemic magnified the potential of telehealth services in addressing gaps in service delivery that contribute to underlying health disparities for many vulnerable New Yorkers," New York State Medicaid Director Amir Bassiri said. "Medicaid's telehealth coverage during the public health emergency enabled flexibility and improved access to care, especially for behavioral and mental health services, for individuals and providers in medically underserved communities in New York. Maintaining these flexibilities and expanding access to medically appropriate telehealth services is a critical strategy to our goal of advancing health equity for all New Yorkers."

Prior to the public health emergency, Medicaid covered some telehealth services, including audio-visual, store-and-forward, and remote patient monitoring at certain facilities. During the PHE, this list was expanded to include over-the-phone care.

Following the PHE, Medicaid has added virtual patient education and virtual check-in and anticipates including eConsults in the future. Medicaid also expanded the eligible providers who can offer telehealth services.

Before the PHE, only 25 types of Medicaid providers were eligible to be reimbursed for services offered via telehealth, including some clinics and facilities. Telehealth is now authorized for all Medicaid providers employed by Medicaid facilities if telehealth services are within a provider's scope of practice and an appropriate option for the required care.

The federal government required New York's Medicaid program to update certain post-PHE regulations to protect patient safety and security. All telehealth applications must be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) may limit virtual prescriptions of certain controlled substances in the future, but the final decision on that has been postponed until November.

When used appropriately, telehealth can improve consumer health, reduce provider costs, and make access to care more equitable, particularly for medically underserved communities. Last year, the state Medicaid program conducted a survey about telehealth preferences that found a vast majority of the New Yorkers had used telehealth during the past two years.

The primary benefits of telehealth include lowered travel time and costs, user-friendly applications or software, lowered anxiety sharing information, and additional privacy with no waiting room or other consumers.