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During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual visits for contraception care shot up in states that mandated telehealth be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits, according to new research published in JAMA.  

Researchers found that telehealth accounted for 30.5% of contraceptive visits in parity states and 21.6% of visits in nonparity states during the pandemic. Thatup from telemedicine accounting for 1.5% of all contraceptive visits pre-pandemic. 

“Findings demonstrated an increase in telecontraceptive visits in states that mandated reimbursement parity vs states that did not. This increase did not correspond to an increase in total contraceptive encounters, suggesting that, although reimbursement parity may have expanded access to telehealth options, it did not improve access to contraception overall.”

The cross-sectional study looked at outpatient claims of women ages 14 to 49, for 10 months before the pandemic and then during the pandemic. The study included 9,279,294 contraceptive claims among 34,109,287 enrollees. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 49% of pregnancies are unintended. Telehealth has often been pitched as a way to expand access to contraceptive care services.

“Increases in use of telehealth for contraception (telecontraception) during the pandemic present an opportunity to expand access to contraception via telehealth,” authors of the research wrote. “Reimbursement parity mandates implemented by some states in response to COVID-19 required insurers to reimburse for telehealth at the same rate as for in-person services, potentially increasing access to telecontraception.”

THE LARGER TREND

Today there are many digital health companies working in the contraceptive care space. Nurx, which got its start offering birth control and PrEP prescriptions, has now raised $113 million after completing a Series C funding round, and entered into agreement to merge with Thirty Madison earlier this year. 

Simple Health, which uses telehealth to provide customers with birth control, recently purchased reproductive care company Emme for an undisclosed amount. 

Another player in the space is the Pill Club, which scored $41.9 million in venture funding in 2021.

 

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