Background: The recent pandemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) resulted in declaration of a national emergency (NE) in March 2020. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quickly responded with temporary expansion of telehealth coverage policies. Aim: To determine the impact of implementing a temporary telephonic code set in a state Medicaid population by comparing the utilization patterns of telehealth claims before and after a NE announcement. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study conducted with the Arizona Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Data include telehealth claims submitted to AHCCCS between January and May 2020 by contracted managed care organizations. Results: Approximately 2.3 million telehealth claims were analyzed in this study. Utilization of the audio-visual (A/V) modality increased 1,610% and telephonic visits increased 408% compared with pre-NE. Compared with pre-NE, three provider type groups increased their utilization of telephonic visits from 1.8% to 50.8% as a result of the temporary telephonic set post-NE. Rural counties had higher rates of telephonic modality adoption, whereas urban counties adopted the A/V modality more readily. Ten telephonic codes constituted 87% of all telehealth claims, with the majority of those codes used for behavioral health and established office visit types. Conclusion: The telephonic modality was adopted more frequently in rural areas and the A/V modality in urban areas. There were several new provider types utilizing telehealth as a result of the temporary telephonic code set implementation.
Keywords: Medicaid; pandemic; telehealth; telemedicine; telephonic codes.