Study Suggests Expanded Telehealth Access Doesn’t Drive Overutilization
By Jarrod Fowler, MHA, FMA Director of Health Care Policy & Innovation | Updated June 29, 2022

A new study suggests that expanded access to telehealth services under the Medicare program during the pandemic has not led to overutilization. The study is timely because it relays what the FMA, AMA and other medical societies have been saying since these flexibilities were granted: Expanded access to telehealth can save lives without increasing costs.

The study, which examined 100% of Medicare Part B outpatient E&M claims from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021, found that total outpatient E&M claims were significantly higher in 2019 then they were in 2020 or 2021. Specifically, there were 289 million outpatient E&M claims in 2019, 255.2 million outpatient E&M claims in 2020, and 260.7 million outpatient E&M claims in 2021. As the authors noted, this suggests that the COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities have not increased total outpatient E&M claim volume. In addition, there was a significant decline in the rate of telehealth E&M claims between April 2020 and December 2021.

The authors also noted that these findings should mitigate some concern about the impact of expanded telehealth access on healthcare utilization. One limitation to the study is that it did not include a significant number of claims beyond 2021.