For a significant number of patients in South Carolina, many of whom reside in small, rural towns, access to health care will be greatly expanded through telemedicine. As first reported by Health Leaders Media, two of the largest insurance programs in the state—BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina—announced last month their plan to “use telemedicine to increase access to some specialty services for its members in rural areas.”
Among the newly reimbursable services will be telestroke care and services for high-risk pregnancy patients. Noting that the increased ability to specialty care will greatly help rural beneficiaries, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Chief Medical Officer Laura Long told Health Leaders, “We expect this to increase cost efficiency, reduce transportation barriers, improve quality of care and communication among providers and our members, and in some cases to save lives.”
Another key part of the package of newly reimbursable services will be mental health care—a rapidly expanding sub-field within telemedicine.
South Carolina’s Medicaid program already provides reimbursement for a variety of health services provided through telemedicine. Private insurers in general, as CTeL and others have previously reported, have often lagged behind government programs in their reimbursement for telehealth services. Indeed, per Health Leaders Media, only “19 states require commercial health insurers” to cover telemedicine, while nearly every state Medicaid program reimburses for at least one type of telemedicine services. Some private insurers, though, as in the case of BlueCross, have decided on their own to provide reimbursement if a state lacks mandated telehealth coverage.