BluePath Health Blog
At BluePath Health, we closely monitor digital health and telehealth policy, trends and news developments. Our policy Round Up blog reviews both state and federal legislative policy movement, recaps relevant news and research, and lists funding opportunities for telehealth adoption. Our blog also focuses on significant trends and developments in health technology that enable payment reform strategies and care delivery transformation.
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On October 13th, Governor Newsom signed six telehealth-related bills that will impact telehealth expansion throughout California. Among the signed bills is A.B. 744, which requires telehealth payment parity for commercial payers by January 1, 2021. Newsom also signed A.B. 1264, which allows providers to use telehealth to conduct examinations prior to prescribing, dispensing or furnishing drugs so long as the examination meets the standard of care. This strengthens the legal foundation needed to ensure the growth of telehealth to provide t right care at the right time in the right place.
This week’s Round Up highlights seven telehealth-related bills that have made their way from the California state legislature to Governor Newsom’s desk where they are awaiting his signature or veto by October 13th.
In addition to establishing payment parity for telehealth, these bills establish and extend telehealth’s use and reimbursement. For example, if signed by the Governor, one bill will reimburse telehealth for delivering healthcare in emergency situations and another will allow its use for prescribing medications.
August 30th CA Senate Appropriations hearing will be crucial to moving telehealth-related bills forward.
HHS Office of Inspector General to audit behavioral health in Medicaid managed care.
Presidential candidates touting rural telehealth and broadband for expanded health care.
DHCS releases revised Medi-Cal Telehealth Provider Manual, which includes coverage of e-consults.
California bills focused on telehealth coverage face a hearing in Senate Appropriations on August 12th for analysis of their fiscal impact.
CMS plans to expand Medicare telehealth benefits and increase health information exchange support.
Virtual care continues to gain attention across the country as more states enact payment parity laws. Most recently, Maine’s Governor Janet Mills signed a payment parity bill, making Maine the third state to adopt telehealth payment parity in 2019.
For years, telehealth was the focus of litigation between the Texas Medical Board and Teladoc targeted at online prescribing regulation, administrative rulemaking procedures and accusations of anticompetitive behavior. In fact, until 2017, Texas required an in-person visit to establish a patient-provider relationship. Flash forward to 2019, however, and the state has passed several telehealth-related bills that now bring telehealth’s benefits to children’s mental health, members of Medicaid managed care plans and behavioral healthcare delivery.
On June 13th, Governor Newsom signed a $215 billion budget, the largest budget in California’s history. In addition to expanded allocations for housing and education, lawmakers and the Governor agreed on two key healthcare spending increases: expanded Medi-Cal coverage to include undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 and allocated funding for additional Covered California subsidies. In addition to taking steps towards universal coverage for Californians, these big ticket healthcare priorities may impact the spread of telehealth and other health IT initiatives.
During this week’s budget hearings California’s state legislature agreed to expand Medi-Cal to allow the enrollment of undocumented young adults under the age of 26. The budget also includes a mandated fine for uninsured individuals that will be used to fund insurance premium subsidies. Details on elements of the budget that impact health policy will be delivered after the budget passes on June 15th.
June 5, 2019 — California suffers from the brunt of the opioid crisis as overdose death tolls continue to climb. While the deaths from prescription opioid overdoses have declined each year since 2014, heroin and synthetic opioids have pushed the total number of deaths up to from 2,031 in 2016 to 2,199 in 2017. To address this on-going crisis, California is expanding access to buprenorphine, one of the most effective therapies for opioid addiction. Today, the state’s safety net population have access buprenorphine through several programs, some of which include telehealth services within their offerings.
AB-744, a bill that would establish telehealth payment parity for all California payers, was passed by the Assembly and has moved on to the Senate.