Ray Barrett recently met with Mei Kwong, the Executive Director at CCHP, Center for Connected Health Policy to discuss recent regulation changes pertaining to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Mei has written many of CCHP’s published materials including the 50 State Report on Telehealth Laws, Regulations and Medicaid Policies. She is a recognized expert on telehealth policy on both the national and federal level and is often consulted by federal and state lawmakers, national and state organizations, health systems, health providers, consumers, and regulatory officials.
CCHP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to maximize telehealth's ability to improve health outcomes, care delivery, and cost-effectiveness. Their website covers all things telehealth policy, to include the current state laws and reimbursement policies, legislation and regulation tracking, state telehealth laws and reimbursement policies, as well as national policy and telehealth resources in the wake of COVID-19.
The CCHP provides a picture of telehealth policy across the United States and monitors both state and federal telehealth legislation. An interactive map allows anyone interested to filter the legislature by area. For example, selecting the state of Georgia (by clicking on the state itself) brings up bills associated with telehealth or telemedicine specific to the state. The title of the bill, state, and issue is open to review and CCHP provides a summary of the purpose of the bill or regulation.
Mei and Ray discuss the impact of COVID-19 on licensure, privacy laws, and reimbursement. There has been some temporary relaxing of regulations relating to telemental health services. However, clinicians can easily get confused about these changes. Just because one agency has relaxed one regulation does not mean that another agency’s similar regulation has been relaxed.
Medicare has relaxed the requirements of the origination site (the location of the client during the time of the session). Several state Medicaid programs have also relaxed this requirement. The Office of Civil Rights states that they will not impose penalties at this time if clinicians use a video conferencing system that does not provide a HIPAA BAA. The federal administration has encouraged states to allow clinicians to practice over state lines. Some private insurance companies are covering more telehealth services. Although there have been some changes, clinicians should continue to practice ethically, take precautions, and verify that all agencies in which they are regulated by are condoning a change in the way in which telehealth services are provided. A good starting point for knowing what changes have been made view The Center for Connected Health Policy’ website.