2020: New Year, New You, and New Telehealth Bills

A new year brings so much possibility. For states that were not able to get telehealth legislation passed, 2020 brings a new chance for failed telehealth bills. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, Washington and South Dakota, for example, are both ringing in the New Year with telehealth bills from the previous legislative year that did not pass. Washington is focusing on mandating payment parity and expanding school-based telehealth programs, while South Dakota is looking at the increased use of telehealth for patient evaluation for mental-health concerns. Washington Republican State Sen. Randi Becker expects her new bill to pass this time around, as doctors are more likely to support telehealth technologies when reimbursement standards are the same. South Dakota’s “bill is designed to speed up treatment for people being held, either in jail or a hospital’s Emergency Department, pending an evaluation,” mHealth Intelligence explains.

In 2019, Washington considered four telehealth bills, but only two passed; the two other bills, which dealt with payment parity and school telehealth, failed to reach a vote. Mandating payment parity, as we’ve previously discussed, is of course a contentious topic. Payers want to be able to set their own reimbursement rates. “Some 42 states and the District of Columbia have laws that set guidelines for telehealth reimbursement but only about a dozen states have enacted payment parity laws, while others have created guidelines by which payers and providers can negotiate specific rates for telehealth services,” mHealth Intelligence notes. The second Washington bill would allow the University of Washington (UW) to use a virtual platform to assess students at risk for suicide, substance abuse, or violence; the virtual platform would be modeled after Project ECHO, creating hub-and-spoke platforms.

South Dakota’s new bill, S.B. 1, would completely get rid of the in-person evaluation requirement in favor of doing the evaluation through audio-visual, real-time telehealth. In conjunction with the Senate bill, a House bill, H.B. 1005, focuses on reducing barriers for prescribing controlled substances through telehealth. “The bill eliminates the requirement that a provider and patient must have a prior relationship before the provider can prescribe a controlled substance using telemedicine technology,” mHealth Intelligence explains. The provider would also be able to use asynchronous store-and-forward, phone calls, and online questionnaires to establish a diagnosis. Clearly, Washington State and South Dakota are taking those New Year’s resolutions seriously.  

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article about Washington State’s new telehealth-related legislation.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article about South Dakota’s new telehealth-related legislation.

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