More federal and state lawmakers are now increasingly supporting coverage for mental health services provided by telemedicine, according to the 2019 Telemental Health Laws survey conducted by Epstein Becker Green (EBG) law firm.
The survey highlights the following milestones achieved in 2019:
- All 50 states and the District of Columbia now provide some level of coverage for telehealth services for their Medicaid members.
- Earlier this year, Massachusetts approved coverage of telehealth services for its 1.9 million Medicaid members seeking access to psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical social workers, behavioral health nurses, nurse practitioners, and professional counselors.
- Kentucky adopted legislation that went into effect July 1, which allows telehealth visits to take place in a patient’s home, and home-based telemental health also has bipartisan support in Congress in the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act (H.R. 1301), which was reintroduced earlier this year.
- Arizona expanded its telehealth law to include coverage of treatment services for substance-abuse disorders.
“We are excited to see telehealth services more widely accepted at the state and federal level,” says Amy F. Lerman, a Member of Epstein Becker Green in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice. “Telehealth is a viable and efficient method of care for patients who require quality treatment that may not be close by. It also gives providers an opportunity to share their services and expertise with underserved segments and geographies they couldn’t serve otherwise.”
Lerman says that since the survey’s original publication in 2016, the primary goal always has been to provide a state-by-state breakdown of the rules and requirements pertaining to provision of telebehavioral health services.
EBG has collected their information by tracking changes to this research constantly and working on an annual basis to compile these changes and update their survey content, which since 2018 has been available via their free app, Lerman says.
Information to support this survey can be found from Doximity, an online networking service for medical professionals. Doximity found that radiology and psychiatry were the top two specialties most interested in telemedicine opportunities. Mental health services via telemedicine are used in a variety of settings, including private practice, outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and correctional facilities.
“Despite a continued shortage of behavioral health providers in the United States, increased use of telehealth technologies as a strategy to increase access to psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists and other behavioral health professionals continues to gain attention and validation as an alternative model of care delivery,” she says.