In a story for NPR, reporter Yuki Noguchi looks into expiring voice-only telehealth coverage for patients in rural areas, and how the looming cutoff could hinder so many rural health care facilities and the people who have come to rely on this kind of telehealth.

From the story: “There are about 1,000 proposals pending before state and federal legislatures that address extending or expanding telehealth beyond the pandemic’s public health emergency. To date, about half of all U.S. states have passed measures keeping audio-only telehealth in place. In the remaining states, absent legislation, old restrictions governing telehealth have kicked back in or will; some will sunset when the federal public health emergency ends sometime after the end of the year, while others have set their own timelines.

Meanwhile, insurance coverage policies are also in flux. Medicare, for example, says it will cover audio-only visits for mental and behavioral health treatment through 2023. But some private insurers have already stopped reimbursing coverage for audio-only care.

Taken together, the changes mean patients might face abrupt severance from care they’ve gotten accustomed to accessing remotely and easily.”

However, the lack of a physical exam raises concerns for the continuation of voice-only telehealth; add the expiring coverage by the state, the feds, and the insurance companies, and many health care workers are left trying to help patients who otherwise would never have sought treatment without voice-only.

To read the rest of the story on NPR, click here.