FILE - Virus Outbreak Telehealth

Margo Jarvis takes part in video teleconference at Cohen Veteran's Network's on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Fayetteville, N.C. Since the pandemic began, the organization has pivoted their mental health services to telehealth at their 15 clinics across the United States. 

(The Center Square) – Just like the flu pandemic in 1918 had forced traditional health care to adapt in ways that carried beyond the wave of sickness, a new coalition wants telehealth to remain after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

The Coalition to Protect Our Telehealth is asking the Illinois General Assembly to make Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order that allows a patient to confer with their doctor via video chat a state law. They want the laws to bar insurance providers and others from classifying a telehealth visit differently than an in-person visit or requiring a different set of practitioners rather than the patient’s current doctor. 

“Treat telehealth like you treat in-patient and in-person services so that the coverage that’s available to patients from commercial health plans, Medicaid, Medicare, across the board, is available, and ensure that providers are reimbursed on a similar basis,” Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun said. “That’s how you can sustain all of the advances that have  been made in telehealth over the past few months.” 

In a July report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, researchers found nearly half of Illinois residents who required care in April used telehealth services. One in five state residents who needed care in June used telehealth, even though in-person visits largely resumed. 

The Coalition to Protect Our Telehealth includes AARP Illinois, American Nurses Association-Illinois, Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, Health Care Council of Illinois; Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network; Illinois Health and Hospital Association, Illinois Health Care Association, Illinois Occupational Therapy Association, Illinois Primary Health Care Association, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Society of Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois State Medical Society, The Kennedy Forum and LeadingAge.

There have been concerns about telehealth, including patient privacy, providers who lack technological savvy, and the risk of misdiagnosis. Chun said hospital networks have strict guidelines for the attending physician or nurse providing remote care. 

“If it’s not possible or there’s something you can’t see during a telehealth visit, you go to other options,” he said. 

The coalition said 36 states require coverage parity for telehealth and 16 require payment parity for private plans, but Illinois has neither. Illinois has no laws that require parity in telehealth for Medicaid patients. 

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.