Medicaid Coverage for Teletherapy and Telehealth

In this article...
  • Medicaid pays for teletherapy in most states. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government broadened states' access to telehealth under Medicaid.

Does Medicaid Pay for Teletherapy?

Yes, the cost of teletherapy services is covered by Medicaid in most states.

This coverage is fairly new, however, primarily dating to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which gave greater flexibility to the states to determine if their Medicaid programs covered various teletherapy costs. Whether teletherapy access remains available to Medicaid beneficiaries post-pandemic remains to be seen.

Does Medicaid pay for teletherapy right now? Yes. Will Medicaid pay for teletherapy in the future? Maybe.

What Is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is therapy that is provided to beneficiaries by a certified and licensed therapist using a video connection. This may be traditional therapy delivered by a psychiatrist or some other sub-type of therapy, such as speech or occupational therapy.

Benefits of Teletherapy

There are many well-known benefits of teletherapy and telemedicine in general.

  • First, it allows doctors and their patients to connect without meeting face-to-face. This opens up the range of options for people living in remote areas where healthcare providers are limited.

  • Secondly, teletherapy doesn’t have to stop or be delayed due to the patient’s inability to get out of the house, such as after major surgery or even during the midst of a pandemic. In addition, teletherapy eliminates the chance of being exposed to sickness at the doctor’s office altogether.

  • And finally, patients are not encumbered with arranging transportation to therapy sessions but can connect to the session with a smart phone or computer.

COVID-19 and Telehealth

In the spring of 2019, states were given broad flexibility in covering telehealth through their individual Medicaid programs in response to the declared Public Health Emergency (PHE). Telehealth became important in keeping social distancing while limiting the number of face-to-face contacts seen in doctor’s offices and clinics. Seeing this, the federal government eased up on telehealth restrictions, making it easier for states to cover telehealth costs and allowing patients and doctors to interact in a nontraditional way.

The Future of Telehealth and Medicaid

In sum, the states were given broad control over Medicaid coverage for teletherapy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Does Medicaid pay for teletherapy right now? Yes, but the future of telemedicine and Medicaid remains up in the air unless states choose to adopt this emerging technology post-COVID-19.