Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that extends for the next two years the requirement adopted at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that health benefits plans reimburse health care providers for telehealth and telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person services, with limited exceptions.
The legislation also charges the Department of Health with conducting an in-depth study of the utilization of telehealth and telemedicine and its effects on patient outcomes, quality and satisfaction, and access to care in order to inform future decisions on payment structure for these services.
“Telehealth and telemedicine services have been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and will stay with us long after the pandemic is over,” Murphy said. “New Jerseyans have greater access to the health care they need with the proliferation and expansion of these services, and with this legislation, we are ensuring that this new technology can remain viable as we emerge from the pandemic while also ensuring that New Jersey remains at the forefront of innovative health care policy that serves all New Jerseyans.”
In addition to extending the reimbursement pay parity requirement for the next two years, S-2559 includes a number of provisions that will improve access to telehealth in both the short and the long term. Under the legislation, the extension of pay parity for the next two years will include a requirement that audio-only behavioral health care services are reimbursed at the same rate as if those services are provided in person. The legislation also permanently prohibits insurance carriers from imposing geographic or technological restrictions on the provision of telehealth services, as long as the services being provided meet the same standard of care as if the services were delivered in person.
“Throughout this pandemic, telemedicine has been a lifeline to vital health care services for many—especially those in underserved communities,” said Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The Department will thoroughly assess the impact of pay parity in telehealth and telemedicine services and make thoughtful recommendations for the future.”
Primary sponsors of S-2559 include Senators Vin Gopal and Nia Gill, and Assemblymembers Joann Downey, Herb Conaway, Daniel Benson, Eric Houghtaling, and Robert Karabinchak.
“As of now, the pay parity for Telehealth is to remain in effect until 12/31/2023. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the many benefits of Telehealth, with virtual appointments having been crucial in ensuring patients receive the proper care they need,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “Telehealth has proved to be cost-effective and it works, but it is important that we continue to guarantee that these virtual appointments are equal to those that are held in person.”
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