Telehealth

What isn't new in the report on rural health care from UnitedHealth's Center for Health Reform and Modernization are findings that rural Americans are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions and have greater difficulty accessing quality health care.

More helpful are the recommended solutions to rural health issues. Fully 30 pages are devoted to review of existing models of rural health care delivery, the promise of rural telemedicine, and new models for high-performing rural provider networks.

Rural households have worse health outcomes than urban households. Access to care is limited due to less insurance coverage, financial hardship and geographical access to care. Highlighted state policies address increasing the health care workforce in rural areas.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that states operate insurance exchanges to enable every citizen across the country to purchase or renew health insurance. The reform legislation provides federal support for “necessary” expenses so states can plan, establish and operate the exchanges for the first year of 2014. Although it specifies several conditions that insurance products offered through the exchange must meet, it allows the states great flexibility in determining how they will regulate and how much reform they will introduce for their state insurance market. Read about what health insurance exchanges can accomplish, how state Medicaid programs will be involved and what decisions states are facing in 2011 and 2012 related to health insurance exchanges.

All but two states maintained or improved eligibility rules for their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP, in 2010.These programs continued to be critical to providing insurance coverage for children and families that otherwise would be uninsured. The median state income limit for children’s coverage is now above 200 percent of the FPL, and pregnant women are eligible up to a median of 185% FPL. However, the median income limit for adult coverage is significantly below the higher eligibility level of 133% FPL that will be implemented under health reform in 2014.

This Act prohibits carriers offering health plans in the state from denying coverage on the basis that the coverage is provided through telemedicine if the health care service would be covered were it provided through in-person consultation between the covered person and a health care provider. Coverage for health care services provided through telemedicine must be determined in a manner consistent with coverage for health care services provided through in-person consultation.

Health educators are providing sexual health information to individuals who send questions via text messages and websites. These innovative approaches are effective in reaching teens through the media they use most, enable education on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and how to get tested, overcome limited opportunities for face-to-face education, and stretch the limited resources for public health programs. 

Sexual health education has taken on a whole new venue. Public health programs are offering teens the ability to ask  questions anonymously and get personalized answers through text messaging services and web sites.

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