According to a new report from Elevance Health’s Public Policy Institute, among Medicaid patients in the state of Florida, vulnerable populations – those in rural areas and older than 65 – used telehealth more than Medicaid patients overall.

Telehealth use among Medicaid members climbed from 2019 to 2020, then leveled off in 2021. In April 2020, telehealth usage reached 28 virtual visits per 1,000 members but dropped to a little over seven visits per 1,000 members by October 2021.

A quarter (24.2%) of total primary care provider (PCP) visits were telehealth visits for Medicaid patients in Florida in 2020, according to the report. For non-PCP visits, the share was 4.6%.

Additionally, telehealth usage varied by location. Rural Medicaid members’ telehealth utilization was nearly double that of urban members in April 2020, 53.8 visits per 1,000 members compared to 27.1 visits per 1,000 members, respectively. This trend continued into 2021, with rural members using telehealth services on average 1.4 times more than urban members.

Telehealth use among older Medicaid members was also consistently higher than among those under the age of 65. The rate of virtual care for older members was 115 visits per 1,000 members in April 2020, compared to 48 visits per 1,000 members for adults younger than 65.

Of interest, members with an unspecified primary language used telehealth at rates approximately three times higher in 2020 and 2021 than those reporting a primary language. Spanish-speaking members had slightly higher usage rates than those with other primary languages.

The report is based on data from members enrolled in Florida’s Simply Healthcare Medicaid plans, including medical encounter information from telehealth and in-person visits between January 2019 and December 2021.