In early 2017, as we reported at the time, Texas enacted several telehealth-related bills. While those laws, as Senator Dawn Buckingham said, “created a streamlined regulatory system for the provision of telemedicine and telehealth services at the Texas Medical Board,” they also led to “unnecessary and burdensome regulatory provisions from the program.” Now, as mHealth Intelligence first reported, the state is looking to update some of those policies, specifically their reimbursement policies, with a new bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover connected care services not delivered in person. Notably, Medicaid would also have to cover connected care services at the same rate as those same services delivered in person. In other words, S.B. 670, if passed, would add Texas to a list of just about a dozen other states mandating payment parity.
S.B. 670, if it becomes law, would accomplish several key objectives.
First, it would reduce costs for both the patient and the care provider “by
removing unnecessary and burdensome regulations in Medicaid
limiting the provision of telemedicine and telehealth services.” Second, it
would reduce confusion regarding reimbursement by mandating that Medicare
reimburse telemedicine services the same as the equivalent in-person services.
Third, it would streamline Medicaid’s adoption of policies regarding payment
parity. Fourth, it would repeal the minimum operating system standards Medicaid
requires for telehealth, telemedicine, and telemonitoring services. By doing
so, the door is now opened for other operating systems to provide those
services. “[T]he bill encourages MCOs to use this technology to promote and
support patient-centered medical homes, and it opens the door for more reimbursement
for federally qualified health centers, provided the Legislature can find the
funding,” mHealth Intelligence sums up.
Texas, as we’ve previously reported, has been making
significant steps in its telehealth policies since 2017, when it became the
last state to remove the in-person meeting requirement for establishing the
doctor and patient relationship in order to use virtual care. Now, the state is
continuing the trend with S.B. 670. The state’s Senate passed the bill in March;
this past week, the House approved the bill with two amendments: “one adding
FQHCs to the list of facilities allowed to launch telepharmacy services, and
the other adding telemedicine and telehealth to the definition of ‘direct
primary care’,” per mHealth Intelligence. Now, an amended version of S.B. 670
awaits the approval of the Senate. Stay tuned…