Senate Health and Human Services Committee hears telehealth legislation

The Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee (HHS) heard a bill this week which would replace current state statute governing telemedicine. There has been a renewed emphasis on telehealth over the past year given risks due to COVID-19 and increased reliance on virtual meetings and communication. Temporary changes have been made to some telehealth requirements through both legislation and executive orders. This bill would codify many of those changes and make further updates to telehealth statute.

Under the bill, telehealth includes secure video conferencing, store-and-forward transfers, synchronous interactions between a patient and provider, and audio-only communication. The new statute would require all health plans to cover telehealth benefits as they would any other benefits and ensures that separate provider networks are not created for telehealth services. The bill would also ensure that prior authorization or utilization review requirements cannot be used for telehealth where they are not required for in-person contact.

This legislation also expands options for the provision of mental health care using telehealth. Updates include allowing telehealth to be used for assessments or treatments for mental health and chemical dependency where medically appropriate. The legislation would also allow for prescription orders for certain drugs via telehealth, though that provision would be subject to federal approval.

The bill passed the Health and Human Services Committee by a unanimous voice vote and was referred to the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee. The bill is expected to return to the Health and Human Services Committee again to continue discussion on components in the bill under the jurisdiction of the HHS Committee. (SF 1160)