Equity in the Age of Telehealth: Considerations for California Policymakers
Telehealth has proliferated due to the stay home mandates associated with COVID-19 and the desire to keep health care facilities clear for an anticipated influx of critically ill COVID-19 patients. Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed the number of telehealth visits in the early weeks of the pandemic skyrocketed to 1.7 million beneficiaries accessing telehealth in a single week as compared to 13,000 prior to COVID-19. A survey of 29 health care safety-net organizations in California found a significant rise in telehealth visits from .5% of all visits in January to nearly 55% of visits in May. Behavioral health visits were also up roughly 25% during that same time. At least one health plan in Covered California reported an increase from 16% to 30% in the number of telehealth visits since the pandemic began.