Effects on Patient Access to Telehealth as Some State Emergencies End

Center for Connected Health Policy

July 2021

With state of emergency declarations expiring or being lifted in states, there is growing concern patients are being left with reduced access if no permanent telehealth policy changes have been enacted.

With state of emergency declarations expiring or being lifted in states, there is growing concern patients are being left with reduced access if no permanent telehealth policy changes have been enacted. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), nearly 20 states no longer are under emergency orders, with many soon to follow. Many states attached telehealth flexibilities to the federal public health emergency (PHE) while others made them contingent on state emergency declarations. Some states have successfully passed legislation to extend certain telehealth flexibilities in advance of state of emergency expirations, such as Connecticut and Delaware. The federal government Emergency Preparedness and Response for Home and Community Based (HCBS) 1915(c) Waivers were often originally tied to state emergencies, but appear to now extend 6 months after the federal PHE ends.

Alaska is one of the states no longer under a state of emergency. During the pandemic a local outlet reported thousands of patients were being referred to out-of-state providers, especially in Washington, via telehealth for a variety of reasons including lack of specialty care and long wait times. Once the emergency licensing waivers expired, however, Seattle hospitals were sent rushing to reschedule Alaska patients and resume the more stringent process of becoming licensed in Alaska. According to recent local reports, Florida’s emergency expiration also took away audio-only and the ability to use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances and recertify medical cannabis patients. The Florida Medical Association told the local news outlet they will continue the push to make telehealth changes permanent in the next state legislative session, especially those requiring insurer reimbursement and payment parity, without which they say telehealth will simply no longer be made available to patients.

For more information on the status of the emergency orders in each state visit the NASHP website - https://www.nashp.org/governors-prioritize-health-for-all/.