On January 1, 2021 Governor Charlie Baker signed An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first (S.2984) which previously passed the Massachusetts Senate 157 – 0.
The new law contains a number of provisions including several important changes to the use of telemedicine:
- Expands the definition of telemedicine to include video, telephone, remote patient monitoring, and asynchronous tools
- Insurance coverage is mandated with no restrictions on the site where care is delivered, e.g. patient at home is now included
- Payment for primary care and chronic disease management is at parity with in-person services
The requirement for coverage expires two years. The requirement for payment parity expires 90 days after the end of the Covid emergency.
The new provisions have yet to be incorporated in the codification of the General Laws but the text of the Act is available here.
The Act modifies the following chapters of the general laws
- 118E – DIVISION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE (Medicaid)
- 175 – Insurance
- 176A – REGULATION OF RATES FOR CERTAIN CASUALTY INSURANCE, INCLUDING FIDELITY, SURETY AND GUARANTY BONDS, AND FOR ALL OTHER FORMS OF MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE, AND REGULATION OF RATING ORGANIZATIONS
- 176B – MEDICAL SERVICE CORPORATIONS
- 176G – HEALTH MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATIONS
- 176I – PREFERRED PROVIDER ARRANGEMENTS
For each of them, it inserts essentially the same language. The exact text for Chapter 175 [Insurance] is below:
(a) For the purposes of this section, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings: “Behavioral health services”, care and services for the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment or management of patients with mental health, developmental or substance use disorders. “Telehealth”, the use of synchronous or asynchronous audio, video, electronic media or other telecommunications technology, including, but not limited to: (i) interactive audio-video technology; (ii) remote patient monitoring devices; (iii) audio-only telephone; and (iv) online adaptive interviews, for the purpose of evaluating, diagnosing, consulting, prescribing, treating or monitoring of a patient’s physical health, oral health, mental health or substance use disorder condition.
(b) An individual policy of accident and sickness insurance issued under section 108 that provides hospital expense and surgical expense insurance and any group blanket or general policy of accident and sickness insurance issued under section 110 that provides hospital expense and surgical expense insurance that is issued or renewed within or without the commonwealth shall provide coverage for health care services delivered via telehealth by a contracted health care provider if: (i) the health care services are covered by way of in-person consultation or delivery; and (ii) the health care services may be appropriately provided through the use of telehealth; provided, however, that an insurer shall not meet network adequacy through significant reliance on telehealth providers and shall not be considered to have an adequate network if patients are not able to access appropriate in-person services in a timely manner upon request. Coverage shall not be limited to services delivered by third-party providers.
(c) Coverage for telehealth services may include utilization review, including preauthorization, to determine the appropriateness of telehealth as a means of delivering a health care service; provided, however, that the determination shall be made in the same manner as if the service was delivered in-person. A policy, contract, agreement, plan or certificate of insurance issued, delivered or renewed within or without the commonwealth shall not be required to reimburse a health care provider for a health care service that is not a covered benefit under the plan or reimburse a health care provider not contracted under the plan except as provided for under subclause (i) of clause (4) of the second sentence of subsection (a) of section 6 of chapter 176O.
(d) A health care provider shall not be required to document a barrier to an in-person visit nor shall the type of setting where telehealth services are provided be limited for health care services provided via telehealth; provided, however, that a patient may decline receiving services via telehealth in order to receive in-person services.
(e) A policy, contract, agreement, plan or certificate of insurance issued, delivered or renewed within the commonwealth that provides coverage for telehealth services may include a deductible, copayment or coinsurance requirement for a health care service provided via telehealth as long as the deductible, copayment or coinsurance does not exceed the deductible, copayment or coinsurance applicable to an in-person consultation or in-person delivery of services. The rate of payment for telehealth services provided via interactive audio-video technology may be greater than the rate of payment for the same service delivered by other telehealth modalities.
(f) Coverage that reimburses a provider with a global payment, as defined in section 1 of chapter 6D, shall account for the provision of telehealth services to set the global payment amount.
(g) Insurance companies organized under this chapter shall ensure that the rate of payment for in-network providers of behavioral health services delivered via interactive audio-video technology and audio-only telephone shall be no less than the rate of payment for the same behavioral health service delivered via in-person methods; provided, that this subsection shall apply to providers of behavioral health services covered as required under subclause (i) of clause (4) of the second sentence of subsection (a) of section 6 of chapter 176O.
(h) Health care services provided via telehealth shall conform to the standards of care applicable to the telehealth provider’s profession and specialty. Such services shall also conform to applicable federal and state health information privacy and security standards as well as standards for informed consent.