FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, 2020

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to reporters in Murphysboro in southern Illinois on Wednesday.

(The Center Square) – Primary care advocates said Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order on telehealth services will help protect people in Illinois and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Pritzker signed the executive order Thursday. He said telehealth services would be fully reimbursed by insurers just as if the patient had come into the doctor’s office. 

“We’re ... working hard to ensure that all our residents are able to get as many of the health care services that they need, even from the safety of their own home,” the governor said.

Specifically, the order requires public and private insurers to reimburse doctors for a virtual doctor’s visit as if it were an in-person visit. It also places restrictions on insurers tacking on extra fees for telehealth visits. 

Two days earlier, President Donald Trump announced the federal government had expanded Medicare telehealth coverage allowing patients to receive a wider range of services without having to travel to a healthcare facility. The administration had previously expanded the ability for primary care doctors and others to have check-ins and follow-ups with their patients through phone, video chat and online patient portals, referred to as “virtual check-ins.”

The main beneficiary of the expanded telehealth services will be seniors who need routine checkups, public health officials said.

“Those regulations should be lessened because we need to be especially flexible in the healthcare delivery system right now,” said Jordan Powell, president of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association. “The more we can care for our patients out of the health center setting gives us the internal capacity to take care of those that truly need to be treated and seen immediately.”

IPHCA affiliates serve as what Powell called the “first line of defense” for people throughout Illinois.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in the Wuhan province of China in late 2019.

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.