April 6, 2020


Indiana Physicians: More Insurers Needed to Cover Telehealth ‘House Calls’ for Older and Low-Income Hoosiers

ISMA applauds insurers and Indiana Medicaid that adequately cover telephone-only health care to prevent coronavirus exposure

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Medical Association is urging all insurance companies to adopt telehealth policies that have “parity” with in-person office visits, including telephone-only visits that are necessary for physicians to care for older and low-income patients.

“Not every patient has a smart phone or has the ability to FaceTime, Skype or Zoom with their doctor,” said ISMA Executive Vice President Julie Reed, JD. “While some insurers have been quick to adapt and ensure all Hoosiers get the medical care they need by using the technology they can afford and have access to, every private payer must do their part during this public health emergency.”

UnitedHealthcare and Cigna are two companies that ISMA applauds for quickly putting such telehealth polices into practice. UHC, for example, has waived audio-video requirements and will cover telehealth services through live, interactive audio-visual or audio-only transmission to patients. Similarly, Cigna’s directives allow for services by phone, video or both.

“The health of our members and the safety of those who deliver care are our top priorities,” said Julie Daftari, MD, chief medical officer in Indiana and Kentucky for UnitedHealthcare Clinical Services. “COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving national health emergency, and we’re working closely with national, state and local health organizations.”

ISMA also expressed appreciation for Gov. Eric Holcomb and his administration’s quick response through a series of executive orders that have allowed telemedicine to become a real option for medical professionals despite calls for social distancing. As a result, Indiana Medicaid covers for audio-visual and audio-only patient visits as if they were in-person. This policy applies to both Medicaid fee-for-service and Medicaid managed care plans.

Although many health insurance plans have expanded telemedicine coverage to include audio-only visits, not all companies have publicly stated they will pay for audio-only services at in-person rates. This could be a barrier for lower income or older Hoosiers who may not have technology available to participate in an audio-visual telemedicine visit.

“Hoosiers over the age of 50 should be able to connect with their doctors the same way they prefer to stay connected with their loved ones – and some do that by telephone,” said AARP Indiana State Director Sarah Waddle. “That’s why we need all insurers to allow telehealth ‘house calls’ the same way they would in-person visits, so older Hoosiers can continue their preventive medical care and stay free of COVID-19 by staying out of hospital emergency rooms during this outbreak.”

Despite the public health emergency, telemedicine providers are still subject to the same standards of appropriate practice for health care services provided at an in-person setting.

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About ISMA:
With 8,500 members, the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) is the largest physician organization in the state and is dedicated to maximizing physician impact. Learn more about ISMA by visiting ISMA's website or following ISMA on Twitter and Facebook.

Media Contact:
Steve Cooke
(317) 627-9955