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NH Executive Order Increases Telehealth Access Amid COVID-19

Effective Mar. 17, Gov. Chris Sununu ordered all health insurance providers in New Hampshire to cover the costs of telehealth services. (USDAgov/Creative Commons)
Effective Mar. 17, Gov. Chris Sununu ordered all health insurance providers in New Hampshire to cover the costs of telehealth services. (USDAgov/Creative Commons)
March 20, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has ordered the expansion of telemedicine services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sununu signed an executive order on Wednesday that temporarily requires all health insurance carriers in the state to cover telehealth for in-network, medically necessary services, such as video and audio consultations. The idea is to decrease the spread of COVID-19 by limiting in-person doctor visits.

Todd Fahey, state director of AARP New Hampshire, thinks it's a smart move for people of all ages.

"This may well open up new opportunities to provide more efficient means of delivery of healthcare services," says Fahey. "Certainly, telehealth is a positive step."

Fahey notes that President Donald Trump recently signed a bipartisan agreement that provides greater access to telehealth for people on Medicare. He adds that remote video and audio technology also is crucial for older people to stay connected to loved ones, especially during this epidemic.

So far, COVID-19 appears to be hitting older adults the hardest, and many rely on family caregivers for help. New Hampshire has the second-oldest population in the country. Fahey says statewide, there are about 177,000 family caregivers - or around one in eight people in the state.

And with the new coronavirus, he figures there are undoubtedly many more family members serving in that role.

"They're the backbone, in many ways, of the long-term care system," says Fahey. "They provide uncompensated care and for years, we've been advocating for them to have additional supports to be able to do what it is that they do."

At the federal level, AARP sent a letter to Congress this week urging increased help for family caregivers. The organization recommends passing the "Credit for Caring Act," which would provide financial relief to family caregivers, as well as emergency funding to Area Agencies on Aging.

For information about how to help an older adult during the pandemic, look online at 'AARP.org/coronavirus,' or call 211 to locate services.

Disclosure: AARP New Hampshire contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH