While the success of telehealth, teletherapy, and telemedicine over the past several months has been well-documented, only a few states have made clear decisions regarding the future of telehealth coverage. Clinicians and their organizations are left in limbo, awaiting word on whether or not they and their clients and patients will continue to enjoy the many benefits of telehealth reimbursement moving forward. In the majority of states, it remains unclear whether state governments will end, extend, or make permanent the expansions they set in place during the unfolding international health crisis. However, seven states have made their intentions known. Telehealth.org is honored to keep you posted regarding these changes as they are announced.
States Where the Telehealth Coverage Changes Will Continue
Other states have surveyed the current health landscape and determined that things either remain too volatile to restrict telehealth use now or recognize the benefits of telehealth, telemedicine, and teletherapy services have provided and wish to keep that a viable treatment avenue going forward.
On July 22, the state voted and ratified a bill that ensures their expanded telemedicine stipulations will continue. The bill keeps the changes in place until the end of the 2027 calendar year. This ensures that telehealthcare receives equal reimbursement to services provided in-person.
The emergency order expired at the start of this month. Instead of extending it once, Maine instead opted to pass a law that makes it possible for the permanent billing of telehealth coverage. Additionally, it established new licensure standards, so that the rest of the state’s health care system recognizes and works with this new permanent status.
Governor Andrew Cuomo did opt to rescind his order declaring a state of emergency on June 25. However, another established standard links all telemedicine services to the Federal government’s COVID response. Therefore, residents of New York will still be able to seek and receive reimbursed telemedicine, teletherapy, and telehealth coverage until the ending or expiration of the Federal health emergency order.
States Where the Telehealth Coverage Changes Have Expired
Unfortunately, some states have already canceled orders extending virtual care reimbursements. Others have allowed their temporary expansion to expire and lapse.
Alaskans have found themselves increasingly without access to virtual care since the 6-month Emergency Courtesy License Program expired. Under the temporary law, residents could receive telemedicine, teletherapy, and/or teletherapy services from practitioners in the 48 contiguous states and Alaska. Previous law said that only Alaska-based practitioners could file for reimbursement for those virtual care surfaces. With the expiration, only telemedicine, teletherapy, and telehealth services provided locally are available for reimbursement. This has created an overabundance of demand, with no sign of an increase in supply.
The ripples of this decision have extended beyond Alaska as well. In Seattle, where many practitioners live, Alaskans were turning to virtual care. Now doctors and clinicians find themselves working overtime to find their now former patients and clients’ local care.
On June 26th, the Governor’s public health emergency Executive Order expired. With it went away the ability to use telephones as a platform for providing telehealth coverage for any residents not currently on Medicare. Additionally, prescribers lost the ability to prescribe, via telehealth, any controlled medications for chronic pain conditions.
Virginia’s declaration of a public health emergency expired at the end of June. Nearly a month later, there still has been no attempt to reinstate, temporarily or permanently, the expansion of telehealth coverage established by that declaration.
State That Has Announced an Intention to End Telehealth Coverage Changes
Patients and clients in the Badger State will continue to have access to telemedicine, teletherapy, and telehealth coverage for the time being. Practitioners can bill for services under the permanent laws or the temporary expanded ones until January 1, 2022. However, after the cutoff, reimbursement for many telehealth services will go away. Other than for services already considered by law to be equivalently rendered in person or virtually, the practitioner will no longer be able to bill for virtual care.
As Telehealth.org noted in The Future of Telehealth, Teletherapy and Telemedicine, the next several months to a year could spell big changes for telehealth coverage and telehealth reimbursement in the United States. Stay tuned to Telehealth.org’s weekly newsletter to keep up-to-date on this fast-moving legislative horizon. If you haven’t yet registered for Telehealth.org News, please register for one or more Telehealth.org newsletters here.