States Start to Make Temporary COVID-19 Telehealth Changes Permanent

Following the decision of the HHS’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to expand access to telehealth services and increase coverage in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states introduced temporary emergency waivers to their telehealth laws. Healthcare providers and patients have welcomed the changes to telehealth policies, which improved access to telehealth services to help control the spread of the virus, SARS-CoV-2. There have been increasing calls for the changes to be made permanent, and several states such as Massachusetts, Colorado, and Idaho have taken steps to ensure the changes continue after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over.

On March 16, 2020, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM) approved a new policy that states the same standard of care applies to in-person and telehealth visits and a face-to-face encounter is not a pre-requisite for a telehealth visit. The policy was introduced on a temporary basis in response to COVID-19, but on June 26, 2020, BORIM made the policy change permanent. This is the first telehealth-specific policy to be adopted by BORIM and Massachusetts was one of the first states to make temporary COVID-19 telehealth policies permanent.

There have been increasing calls at the Federal level for the expansion of access to telehealth services to be made permanent and for there to be continued reimbursement parity for in-person and virtual visits when the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency is declared over.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma has expressed support for the expansion of telehealth access to continue and, at a recent meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), the 30+ temporary changes to Federal telehealth policies were discussed and Congress was urged to make several of the changes permanent. There is a commonly held view that telehealth can improve patient outcomes, help providers deliver a better patient experience, and that telehealth will help to reduce the cost of healthcare provision.

Two Federal policy changes that have attracted considerable support are the relaxation of the Medicare originating site requirement to allow physicians to provide telehealth services to all patients, no matter where they are located, and expansion of the number of telehealth services covered under Medicare.

These and other policies changes have received support at the state level. Several other states have now taken steps to improve telehealth access. Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, signed a bill this week that prohibits health insurance companies from requiring a patient to have a pre-established relationship with a virtual care provider. The law, which applies to Medicaid and state-regulated health plans, also prohibits insurers from imposing additional location, certification, or licensure requirements on providers as a condition for telehealth reimbursement and the restrictions on the technology that can be used to provide telehealth services have also been removed. Audio or video communication solutions only need to be compliant with the HIPAA Security Rule.

Idaho Governor Brad Little has similarly taken steps to make the COVID-19 changes to telehealth laws permanent, including the state’s temporary telehealth rule waivers that increased the medications that could be prescribed in telehealth visits, the broadening of the technology that can be used for providing telehealth services, and the change that allows out-of-state providers to treat patients virtually.

“Our loosening of healthcare rules since March helped to increase the use of telehealth services, made licensing easier, and strengthened the capacity of our healthcare workforce – all necessary to help our citizens during the global pandemic,” said Gov. Little. “We proved we could do it without compromising safety. Now it’s time to make those healthcare advances permanent moving forward.”

All states expanded access to telehealth services for Medicaid beneficiaries following the announcement by the CMS about the expansion of access to telehealth and increased coverage. Many more states are now expected to make the emergency changes permanent.  However, health insurers must also make changes and confirm that they will continue to reimburse physicians for virtual visits at the same rate as in-person visits, otherwise it is likely that telehealth will be dropped in favor of in-person visits.

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Optimum Behavioral Care, Inc Confirmed as HIPAA Compliant by Compliancy Group

Compliancy Group has announced that Optimum Behavioral Care, Inc. d/b/a Frank Morelli, LMHC, has implemented an effective HIPAA compliance program and has demonstrated compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, Breach Notification and Omnibus Rules.

Frank Morelli is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor practicing in Jacksonville, FL with more than 25 years’ experience of providing behavioral wellness to the entire family. His practice is especially well suited to treating patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression.

 

Frank Morelli sought assistance from Compliancy Group to ensure that fully compliant policies and procedures had been implemented and appropriate safeguards were in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. “Protecting the records and communications of my clients is just the right thing to do.  Confidentiality is the cornerstone of psychotherapy,” said Frank Morelli.

Frank Morelli used Compliancy Group’s proprietary HIPAA-compliance tracking solution, The Guard, to monitor progress and guide his compliance efforts, with assistance provided by Compliancy Group’s expert compliance coaches.

Frank Morelli successfully completed Compliancy Group’s 6-Stage HIPAA Risk Analysis and remediation process and his good faith effort towards HIPAA compliance was verified by Compliancy Group’s HIPAA subject matter experts and Compliance Coaches and Frank Morelli was awarded Compliancy Group’s HIPAA Seal of Compliance.

The HIPAA Seal of Compliance demonstrates to current and former patients that Frank Morelli’s practice is committed to ensuring the confidentiality of patient data and protecting the privacy of patients. Forward-thinking providers like Frank Morelli, LMHC choose the HIPAA Seal of Compliance to differentiate their services.

“Navigating the HIPAA rules are challenging for providers of healthcare services.  Compliancy Group makes the process straight forward, thorough, and complete.  OBC, Inc is a better choice for psychotherapy for having respected the rights of consumers, and a better company for faithfulness to high standards,” said Compliancy Group.

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