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82% of Americans Want Telehealth Flexibilities Extended

Mark Melchionna

November 30, 2022

A recent survey indicates that 82 percent of respondents with employer-provided coverage believe that the government should extend telehealth flexibilities.

A recent survey conducted by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) found that a majority of respondents are requesting that the government sustain the telehealth flexibilities enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the number of people using telehealth increased dramatically, largely due to the withdrawal of various regulatory restrictions as well as the new barriers imposed on in-person care. According to data from market research firm Trilliant Health, telehealth use peaked in the second quarter of 2020.

Though telehealth use has waned since 2020, it remains popular among patients and providers. As a result, Congress is faced with deciding whether to continue or terminate telehealth flexibilities. A survey from the Morning Consult on behalf of AHIP’s Coverage@Work campaign collected data on patient preferences regarding telehealth and how they feel about its future. The survey polled 818 voters with employer health insurance between Nov. 11 and 13.

The main survey findings related to whether patients would consider seeing a doctor through telehealth, reasons for using telehealth, and their opinions on the government extending telehealth flexibilities.

The survey shows that 65 percent of those with employer-provided coverage reported being likely to consider seeing a doctor or receiving treatment through telehealth. This finding was consistent across age, income, and ethnicity groups. Also, 49 percent claimed that interest in telehealth is mainly backed by convenience, and 35 percent stated that it saves time as it eliminates the need for travel.

Among all respondents, 82 percent believe that the federal government extending telehealth flexibilities is important. This included a bipartisan majority of Democratic voters (95 percent), independent voters (77 percent), and Republican voters (70 percent).

Considering the survey results, AHIP concluded that respondents would advocate for the government to continue telehealth flexibilities.

This is not the first indication of healthcare stakeholders seeking this end goal. In September, a letter to the US Senate composed by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and its advocacy arm known as ATA Action asked for a continuation of expanded telehealth access.

Specifically, the letter urged the US Senate to sustain telehealth flexibilities for two years through 2024. These flexibilities included waivers put into place during the pandemic, including removing initial in-person requirements for telemental health and eliminating restrictions on the location of providers and patients engaging in telehealth. Signed by 375 stakeholders, such as Amazon, the American Nurses Association, and Bicycle Health, the letter also detailed concerns about a forced return to in-person care.

Also, in March, Senators Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced a bill known as the Hospital Inpatient Services Act, which allowed for a two-year extension of the federal acute hospital-at-home waiver.

Introduced in November 2020 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the waiver enables treatment for common acute conditions in home settings. This waiver was highly used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with 92 health systems, comprising 203 hospitals across 34 states, using it as of March 4.

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