Massachusetts fumbles on telehealth parity bill
- Massachusetts lawmakers were unable to iron out differences in House and Senate versions of a wide-ranging health bill that would have, among other things, boosted support for telemedicine, letting the measure die when the legislative session ended July 31, mHealth Intelligence reports.
- The proposed legislation would have required insurance companies in the state "to provide coverage for health care services solely on the basis that those services were delivered by way of telemedicine by a contracted health care provider if: (i) the health care services are covered by way of in-person consultation or delivery; and (ii) if the health care services may be appropriately provided through the use of telemedicine."
- House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, told Massachusetts Public Radio station WBUR that the legislation stalled over funding of community hospitals. He said lawmakers could take another stab at passing the telehealth provisions in standalone legislation next year.
Massachusetts is one of 14 states that don't have telehealth parity laws for private health insurance. And last year, the American Telemedicine Association gave the state an F for telehealth parity. Such laws ensure doctors who provide remote services get paid at the same rate as doctors who see the patient in the office.
The legislation also required the Massachusetts Medical Board to establish regulations on the "appropriate use of telemedicine to provide health care services" and encouraged, but did not require, Medicaid managed care plans to cover telehealth services.
It also redefined telemedicine to include interactive audio, video or other electronic media, but not telephone, fax, online questionnaires, texting or e-mail.
As enthusiasm for telehealth continues to grow, providers nationwide are pushing to reduce barriers and restrictions to virtual care.
"If I collect $150 for a visit in the face-to-face world, a lot of insurance companies are saying we're going to give less to the same professional for same level of expertise" simply because the visit is virtual, Iris Berman, vice president of telehealth services at Northwell Health, told Healthcare Dive in a recent interview.
In May, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican, signed into law H.B. 2028 allowing physicians and mental health professionals to treat patients remotely and requires insurers to reimburse their services on an equal par with in-person visits.
Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have telehealth parity laws, according to the ATA. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is working on a rule that would allow VA providers to practice telehealth anywhere, regardless of variations in state laws.