Patients and providers now have easier access to telehealth. Responding to demands on the military health-care system due to the covid pandemic, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) has temporarily relaxed three related regulations:
* Beneficiaries who do not have access to video now have access to audio-only telephone visits with providers. This change should prove beneficial for people without smart phones or computers, or who live in very remote areas.
* Providers who practice interstate telehealth are eligible for reimbursement from TRICARE, even if they are not licensed in both the state in which they operate and the state in which beneficiaries live. Overseas providers, too, can qualify for TRICARE reimbursement – as long as they hold an equivalent license in the nation in which they operate, and the nation allows telehealth practice.
* Cost-shares and copayments for covered, in-network telehealth services have been waived. This applies to all services, not just those associated with treatment for COVID-19.
The new rules took effect May 12, and may take time to become fully implemented. Beneficiaries who are required to make copayments for telehealth services may expect to be reimbursed at some point. Meanwhile, DHA plans to reevaluate the effects of the changes once the COVID-19 threat diminishes.