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Virtual healthcare gets an increased focus for 2021

Federal insurance plans will include more provisions to cover telemedicine care for enrollees, as a long-term effort to expand these options coincides with an increase in demand for virtual care for the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In 2020 and 2021, operators have been encouraged to increase coverage of telehealth services, including waiving cost sharing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Lori Bodenheimer, director of health care and insurance at the Office of Personnel Management. In a press call on October 14.

"Increasing the coverage of telehealth services under FEHB has been our focus for at least the last four years. A side effect of the epidemic may be that both registrars and service providers have significantly increased the use of telehealth services. and they feel comfortable with them, so I hope this trend continues. "

Although interest in telehealth actually declined between 2017 and 2019, according to the OPM Benefits Survey, officials believe these figures would change dramatically if the survey were conducted during the pandemic itself.

Insurance providers have been encouraged to reduce cost sharing and prior authorization for telecare treatments specifically related to COVID-19, even though patients have switched to virtual care for many healthcare needs outside of their own. pandemic.

The availability of telehealth offerings will vary by insurance provider, and OPM has encouraged Federalists and guides to check all available resources to determine how many offers their plans cover.

"The information is available in the 2020 brochures," Bodenheimer said.

"An affiliate can also contact their plans and ask specific questions. We encourage them to contact their providers and ask if this specific provider can offer telemedicine services."

FEHB's open season of 2021 plans runs from November 9 to December 14 of this year.