agilon health and Physician Partners Advocate for Passage of Extended Telehealth Services for Medicare Beneficiares

Persistence pays off.  At least that’s the hope of agilon health executives and physician partners who are advocating for permanent Medicare coverage of telehealth visits. During the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, our physician partners provided more than 30,000 telehealth visits to seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.  Telehealth accounted for 40 percent of the primary care visits performed during that time. Telehealth has quickly become a mainstay of the care our practices provide to their Medicare patients.

Throughout July, agilon health and physician partner leaders conducted “virtual fly-ins” with legislators from Louisiana, Texas, and Ohio; members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee; and leaders who play a critical role in writing and passing legislation to advance telehealth policy.  During these meetings, agilon health executives pointed out research across agilon health’s partners showing that in-person health exams dropped by 57%during the COVID-19 quarantine, but virtual visits allowed practices to recoup half of the lost visits. In addition, 82 percent of patients surveyed believed care provided during telehealth visits was as good or better than face-to-face visits; and nine of 10 patients indicated they would request a telehealth visit again.

One example of a physician practice successfully using telehealth services is Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC), which so far conducted over 100,000 virtual visits since the start of the COVID-19 quarantine. COPC expanded the program to include telehealth visits for the evening and weekend hours, helping to divert about 900 patients from trips to hospital emergency rooms and eliminating the potential risk for exposure to COVID-19. One of those patients was a 75-year-old COPC patient experiencing shortness of breath and chest tightness who called the COPC call center on a Sunday.  During a resulting telehealth visit, the on-call physician evaluated and treated the patient without a visit to an emergency room.

At these meetings, agilon health and physician partner executives underscored the request that Congress permanently waive the originating site and geographic restrictions on telehealth services in traditional Medicare and shared data to support this request. The policy change, if achieved, would mean that agilon partner practices could continue to offer telehealth services to their patients in a variety of settings, including the patient’s home, and would not be subject to site and geographic restrictions. In late July, Senate Republicans released stimulus legislation allowing the Health and Human Services Secretary to extend the telehealth policy through the later of December 31, 2021 or the end of the public health . agilon health will continue to monitor the situation and work with our physician partners to weigh in on proposed legislation to help ensure permanent coverage of virtual visits. Click here to read about the summary presented to legislators.