State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Report, Fall 2021
Center for Connected Health Policy
Today the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) is releasing its bi-annual summary of state telehealth policy changes for Fall 2021.
Our semi-annual report has gone digital
Historically, our twice-yearly updates to the “State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies” report have been published as a PDF document, and included the telehealth policies for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Earlier this year, we transitioned exclusively to our new and improved online Policy Finder. This online database allows the CCHP team to easily update each state’s information whenever there is a change, instead of waiting for the spring and fall to roll out the report. Now, you can look up (or download a PDF) of the most up-to-date information on each state from that state’s page. We hope this transition will result in more timely policy information that is easier for you to navigate and understand.
Read the Executive Summary
We will continue to produce bi-annual summary reports of the status of telehealth policies across the United States to provide a snapshot of the progress made in the past six months. The information for this summary report covers updates in state telehealth policy made between June and September 2021.
This report is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a comprehensive statement of the law on this topic, nor to be relied upon as authoritative. Always consult with counsel or appropriate program administrators.
The Center for Connected Health Policy’s (CCHP) Fall 2021 analysis and summary of telehealth policies is based on its online Policy Finder database tool. It highlights the changes that have taken place in state telehealth policy between the initial release of CCHP’s Policy Finder in Spring 2021, and Fall 2021. The research for this Fall 2021 executive summary was conducted between June and September 2021. This summary offers policymakers, health advocates, and other interested health care professionals an overview of telehealth policy trends throughout the nation. For detailed information by state, see CCHP’s telehealth Policy Finder tool which breaks down policy for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Please note that many states continue to keep their temporary telehealth COVID-19 emergency policies siloed from their permanent telehealth policies. These temporary policies are not included in this executive summary, although they are listed under each state in the online Policy Finder under the COVID-19 category. In instances where the state has made policies permanent, or extended policies for multiple years, CCHP has incorporated those policies into this report.
DOWNLOAD INFOGRAPH WITH KEY FINDINGS
CCHP examined state law, state administrative codes, and Medicaid provider manuals as the primary resources for the online telehealth policy database tool, from which the findings in this summary are taken. Additionally, other potential sources such as releases from a state’s executive office, Medicaid notices, transmittals or Agency newsletters were also examined for relevant information. In some cases, CCHP directly contacted state Medicaid personnel in order to clarify specific policy issues. Most of the information contained in the database tool specifically focuses on fee-for-service; however, information on managed care plans has also been included if available from the utilized sources.
Every effort was made to capture the most recent policy language in each state at the time it was reviewed between the months of June and September 2021. In some cases, after a state was reviewed, they passed a significant piece of legislation. In order to incorporate those significant changes, CCHP conducted a scan for these instances in late September and incorporated language from those enacted bills where appropriate. It should be noted that even if a state has enacted telehealth policies in statute, these policies may not have been incorporated into its Medicaid program. For purposes of this summary, CCHP only counts states as reimbursing for a specific modality or removing a restriction if there is documentation to show that the Medicaid program has implemented a statutory requirement for that policy. Requirements in newly passed legislation will be incorporated into the findings section of future editions of CCHP’s summary report once they are implemented in the Medicaid program, and CCHP has located official documentation confirming this.
This survey focused on three primary areas for telehealth policy including Medicaid reimbursement, private payer laws and professional requirements. Within each category, information is organized into various topic and subtopic areas. These topic areas include:
Definition of the term telemedicine/telehealth
Reimbursement for live video
Reimbursement for store-and-forward
Reimbursement for remote patient monitoring (RPM)
Reimbursement for email/phone/fax
Private Payer Laws
Parity (service and payment)
Professional Boards Standards
No two states are alike in how telehealth is defined and regulated. While there are some similarities in language, perhaps indicating states may have utilized existing verbiage from other states, noticeable differences exist. The main areas where changes were made over the past six months fall in the three buckets that CCHP uses to categorize information within its policy finder: Medicaid policy, private payer policy, and regulation of health professionals. Changes were also highly influenced by temporary expansions made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states took approaches to extend their pandemic policies multiple years into the future, while others made policies (or portions of their COVID policies) permanent. Still others have not adopted their more lenient COVID policies at all. Connecticut, for example, passed a new temporary law (active until June 30, 2023) which not only requires Medicaid to reimburse for synchronous, asynchronous store-and-forward transfers, remote patient monitoring and audio-only modalities if the provider is in-network, but also places similar requirements on private payers as well.
In Medicaid, it was common for states to make slight adjustments to their telehealth policies to add or clarify the services that can be delivered via telehealth, types of professionals that can deliver care through telehealth or the types of settings a patient could be in during a telehealth interaction. For example, Iowa clarified that an intern psychologist can provide telehealth services to Medicaid members. Mississippi clarified federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and rural health clinics (RHC) could be distant site providers, and added the home as an originating site. And, Arkansas now specifies that both the home is an eligible patient site and that group meetings may be performed via telemedicine. Although reimbursement for audio-only telephone has become pretty standard during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), less than half of state Medicaid programs explicitly are reimbursing for the modality permanently, and many that are have placed restrictive parameters around its reimbursement.
It was also common for states to make modifications to their telehealth private payer reimbursement law language to alter the definition of telehealth/ telemedicine. This typically included an expansion of the definition to be broader in scope so that it entails more than just live video, although often with some caveats. For example, Arkansas’ private payer law now stipulates that telemedicine does not include audio-only communication, unless the audio-only communication is real-time, interactive, and substantially meets the requirements for a healthcare service that would otherwise be covered by the health benefit plan. Iowa revised their law to include ‘real-time interactive electronic media’, but still excludes audio-only telephone from the definition of telehealth. Requirements around payment parity were also a common change, with eight states passing a law requiring the reimbursement amount is the same whether a service is provided via telehealth or in-person since Spring 2021. Illinois, for example, now requires reimbursement parity for in-network or tiered network health care professionals or facilities, including services provided via audio-only. Iowa is another example of a state requiring reimbursement of covered services is made on the same basis and same rate as in-person mental health services.
Finally, there is a noticeable shift in telehealth policy towards tightening of professional requirements around the use of telehealth by providers. For example, Michigan passed new consent requirements for social work, athletic trainers, massage therapists, acupuncturists and veterinary medicine. Texas is another state that added practice standards (including a consent requirement and prescribing rules) for teledentistry specifically. West Virginia adopted emergency telehealth practice standard regulations to implement a previous law that passed (W. VA Code 30-1-26(b)) for five professions, including dentistry, nursing, osteopathic medicine, social work and medicine. While many states have had these types of standards for several years, the rate at which new telehealth standards are being adopted has increased significantly within the last six months.
Additional findings include:
Fifty states and Washington DC provide reimbursement for some form of live video in Medicaid fee-for-service.
Twenty-two state Medicaid programs reimburse for store-and-forward. However, three states (NC, OH, VT) solely reimburse store-and-forward as a part of CTBS, which is limited to specific codes and reimbursement amounts. Michigan is the only state to add reimbursement for store-and-forward since Spring 2021. Additionally, three jurisdictions (MS, NH, and NJ) have laws requiring Medicaid reimburse for store-and-forward but as of the creation of this edition, don’t have any official Medicaid policy indicating this is occurring.
Twenty-nine state Medicaid programs provide reimbursement for RPM. States that added RPM since Spring 2021 included Washington, Michigan and California. As is the case for store-and-forward, three Medicaid programs (NH, HI and NJ) have laws requiring Medicaid reimburse for RPM but at the time this report was written, did not have any official Medicaid policy. Additionally, two of the states (OH and CA) only reimburse the remote physiologic monitoring codes CMS does.
Twenty-two states reimburse for audio-only telephone in some capacity (often limitations apply); however, Michigan only reimburses for it when used for provider to- provider electronic consultations.
Eleven state Medicaid programs including Arizona, California, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, reimburse for all four modalities, although certain limitations apply.
While this Executive Summary provides an overview of findings, it must be stressed that there are nuances in many of the telehealth policies. To fully understand a specific policy and all its intricacies, the full language of it must be read utilizing CCHP’s telehealth Policy Finder. Below are summarized key findings in each category area contained in the Policy Finder as of September 2021.
Read more: https://www.cchpca.org/resources/state-telehealth-laws-and-reimbursement-policies-report-fall-2021/