Assembly OKs expanded access to telemedicine coverage
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller and House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Stephen M. Casey to expand Rhode Islanders’ access to telemedicine coverage.
The bill (2021-S 0004Baa), 2021-H 6032Aaa), which now goes to the governor, would expand telemedicine coverage requirements for insurers and require that all Rhode Island Medicaid programs cover telemedicine visits —visits with health care providers via telephone or audio-video enabled device.
“Telemedicine has been an extremely valuable tool for maintaining health since the pandemic began. As its use increased, the public and our health care providers have become more adept at and comfortable using it, too. While its broader use may have been an adaptation for the pandemic, it’s also an improvement to our health care delivery system that will serve us well long after the pandemic. Telemedicine gets health care to people safely, efficiently and effectively, wherever they are. Embracing and expanding it as a permanent option for Rhode Islanders will improve health care access now and in the future,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).
Said Chairman Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), “Telemedicine is one more way we can make it easier for Rhode Islanders to access the health care they need. Our experience with its use over the last year or more has shown us that it is an effective way to provide a great many health services. It makes it easier for people who are housebound, those who may not have reliable transportation, and those who simply find it quicker and more convenient than visiting an office. It advances public health by encouraging and helping people to maintain their health.”
This bill expands access to telemedicine by:
- allowing patients to receive telemedicine services at home;
- permitting the delivery of telemedicine by audio-only telephone;
- requiring that deductible, copayments, or coinsurance are no more than if the same service were performed in-person;
- requiring that prior authorization, medical or benefit determinations, and utilization review are no more stringent than if the service was performed in-person;
- requiring that the Rhode Island Medicaid program covers telemedicine services; and
- authorizing the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC) and Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to promulgate telemedicine rules and regulations.
The bill preserves the current executive order through the end of the state of emergency by requiring that in-network telemedicine services be reimbursed at rates not lower than if the same services were delivered in-person. Once the state of emergency ends, this provision will remain in place unless or until OHIC/EOHHS revises this provision based on recommendations provided by an advisory committee that is created in this bill.
The bill also permanently requires that in-network primary care, behavioral health providers and registered dietitian nutritionists be reimbursed at rates not lower than when the same services are delivered in-person.
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