What You Should Know:
– The 2022 updates report a significant evolution of the telemental health and telehealth industries, including increased regulatory flexibilities that promote increased use of telehealth.
Insights and Trends from Telemental Health’s Survey
The Telemental Health Laws survey is authored by Amy Lerman and Audrey Davis, with support from Jenna Horowitz, Erin Sutton, Christopher Taylor, and Bailey Wendzel. EBG Law Clerk Jack Ferdman and the following 2022 EBG Summer Associates provided research and drafting support: Nija Chappel, Madeline Dwivedi, Annie Lucatuorto, Diego Perea, Ada Peters, and Kyla Portnoy.
The survey’s focus on behavioral health professions highlights an ongoing mental health crisis and an industry in dire need of qualified mental health services and resources. In 2022, reports of a 25 percent increase in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression pushed the Biden administration to prioritize access to mental health services, including the $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which extended Medicare coverage related to telemedicine practices. As a result, mental health care services multiplied as state and local legislatures expanded policies to support the provision and coverage of these services.
As within many areas of health care, however, expansion and innovation contributed to a higher risk of fraud and resulted in an increase in enforcement activity. Telemental health providers were not immune to this activity in 2022, and providers should prioritize regulatory compliance as the industry looks ahead to 2023.
“As legislators began to address regulations heavily impacted by COVID-19, the United States also faced the demand for more accessible mental health services,” explained Amy Lerman, a Member of the Firm in EBG’s Health Care and Life Sciences practice. “The heightened importance of telemental health services calls for more flexibility and expanded access. That call was answered in 2022, and now the industry must ensure that services maintain quality and compliance for real change to occur.”
Below are more key insights from the industry progress:
1. Telemental Health Becomes More Accessible Across States
While physicians continue to use telemedicine and telehealth services in their practices, 2022 brought continued regulatory updates in many states that promote flexibility and access to telehealth technology for use by other mental and behavioral health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, and counselors. These are some measures of increased accessibility in 2022:
– Broader Coverage Under State Medicaid Programs: While all state Medicaid programs provide coverage and reimbursement for some telehealth services, a key development was certain state Medicaid programs making permanent the temporary COVID-19 flexibilities in coverage and reimbursement, to promote coverage of telehealth services. For example, some states’ Medicaid programs now provide coverage for certain services supplied through audio-only modalities.
– Interstate Practice: States have continued to evolve with respect to how professionals can fulfill professional licensure requirements. In certain states, specific types of providers may provide services to patients in the states as long as they hold a license in good standing in their home state. Greater state participation in various professional compacts also has helped facilitate cross-state practice activities.
– Remote Prescribing: States continue to clarify and refine requirements under which physicians and certain other professionals can prescribe remotely, specifically by eliminating the requirement that the provider conduct a prior in-person examination and allowing instead for the necessary examination to occur via telehealth.
2. “Telefraud” Met with Continued Enforcement
As telemental health services have seen unprecedented demand, states and federal lawmakers are addressing the increased risk of fraudulent schemes. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) continued to build on previous activity. Notable actions and reporting include the following: