KFF Publishes Brief on Pandemic Private Insurance Payments

Early in the Pandemic, Private Insurers Paid Similarly for In-Person and Telemedicine Services, Including for Mental Health Therapy

Telehealth use surged as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, though the shift toward virtual physician and mental health care did not materially affect how much insurers paid for each patient encounter in 2020, a new KFF analysis finds.

Using data from the Health Care Cost Institute, the analysis examines nearly 100 million claims to compare the average paid amount for in-person and telehealth evaluation and management services and mental health therapies.

In each case, the average payments were similar in 2020.

The analysis suggests that the expanded use of telehealth services did not lead to significant cost savings early in the pandemic though likely provided other benefits by making services more convenient and accessible for patients. Whether insurers have continued to pay similar rates for telehealth and in-person services is not yet clear. The analysis also does not assess the extent to which the availability of telehealth substitutes for in-person services or leads to greater use of health care overall.

The analysis is available through the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, an online information hub that monitors and assesses the performance of the U.S. health system.

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