The telemedicine industry is projected to generate over USD 48 billion by 2019 globally. This influx of investment means consumers are likely to witness an increase of innovative businesses working in this sector, trends towards greater availability of telemedicine programs on a national scale, and increased healthcare cost savings for both employers and employees. Access to telemedicine programs has the potential to impact employer provided healthcare plans in a very positive way. In the past, healthcare plans that incorporated telemedicine services were restricted by differing state legislation and regulations making it hard for employers located in multiple states to choose a telemedicine provider or service that followed each state regulation separately.
TELEMEDICINE PLAN BENEFITS
Lately, most of the news surrounding the telemedicine industry pertains to how various state legislatures have started to remove barriers to telehealth service development and develop clearer cost and implementation regulations for the industry. This is making it much easier for companies and employers to begin realizing telemedicine services as part of their standard healthcare plans or as an elective component of their traditional plans. Most recently, the state legislature in Florida passed a bill expanding coverage for Medicaid telemedicine services. The bill expands coverage for real-time, audio-visual interactive telemedicine services. Previously, telemedicine was not covered for Medicaid patients in Florida, but thanks to the efforts of the Telehealth Association of Florida and industry experts, the bill was revised to incorporate broader coverage of telemedicine services.
Even more importantly, as certain taxes and legislation that have the potential to increase the financial burden of healthcare for employers come into play, an established robust telemedicine program can help offset or reduce costs for employers and employees. For example, the “Cadillac Tax” which will apply to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2018, imposes an excise tax of 40% on the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage that exceeds certain annual thresholds. The tax is meant to help finance the Affordable Care Act and decrease excessive healthcare spending by employers and employees. However, this can be costly for employers with employees seeking care for chronic conditions or working in high risk situations.
Taking into account evidence of quantifiable healthcare savings for both employers and employees, more convenient access to medical care and the looming “Cadillac Tax”, more and more employers are including telehealth services as an integral part of their employee healthcare models. According to Mercer’s 2015 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, large companies with 500 or more employees offering telemedicine services jumped from 18% to 30%. Essentially, employers are witnessing the added benefits of including telehealth services for employees including fewer instances of decreased production due to excess time spent on doctor or hospital visits, greater employee management of personal health, increased patient knowledge and clinical outcomes, and greater access to qualified medical providers.
TELEMEDICINE IMPLEMENTATION GUIDELINES
Implementation of telemedicine services as an employee healthcare benefit should be part of a comprehensive workplace health plan. Whether you want to offer employees chronic care management, mental health consultation services, or replace the need for urgent care visits, your telemedicine plan needs to take into account the needs of your employees and function accordingly. Communication is also essential to a successful implementation. If your employees don’t understand the specifics of your new standard or elective telemedicine program, they won’t be keen to utilize the service.
Examples of how you can foster a culture of broad acceptance and usage within your company:
- Send regular communications about your telemedicine program
- Have plan experts available for questions and concerns
- Make the services available to all employees and family members
- Speak about your own personal experience using telemedicine
While the telehealth services environment is rapidly expanding and states are removing barriers to access and reimbursement for telemedicine services, we understand there are still challenges to telemedicine program implementation for employers. Employers must decide whether or not to make telemedicine part of their standard healthcare plan or add it as an elective component of an existing model, choose a qualified telemedicine provider, and account for healthcare IT rules and regulations. As the evolving healthcare industry focuses on employer-sponsored telehealth services, MyOnCallDoc is available to guide you through the process of incorporating standard or elective telehealth models for telehealth and decode state and federal legislation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, comments or requests for more information about how you can start implementing your employer-sponsored telemedicine program today.