Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill this past week that expands access to virtual care throughout the state.
The bill, HB 3308, requires insurance reimbursement parity for virtual mental health and substance use disorder services, as well as authorizing all other telehealth to be covered through 2027.
“The legislation I’ll sign today will solidify Illinois as a leader in telehealth access and expansion in the nation,” said Pritzker in a statement. “Illinois is now one of the first states in the nation to turn our emergency pandemic response into a permanent reality.
“We are taking great strides to make sure that where you live no longer impacts how long you live,” he added. “Thanks to this new law, we are one step closer to that reality today.”
WHY IT MATTERS
The new law builds on executive orders Pritzker put into place earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
In addition to the parity provision, HB 3308:
- Prevents insurance plans from requiring a patient to attend an in-person visit before a telehealth service
- Expands the early intervention services that can be provided through telehealth
- Bars insurers from requiring patients to provide a reason for choosing a telehealth visit over an in-person consult
At the same time, it safeguards patients’ ability to seek care in person if they so choose; insurers can’t mandate that physicians offer telehealth or require individuals to see a healthcare provider virtually if they prefer an in-person visit.
Advocates and health industry professionals cheered the passage of the bill, which they say will help preserve access to care throughout the state.
“Sinai Chicago serves Chicago’s West and Southwest Sides, providing care for patients who were hit especially hard by COVID-19. In our communities, impeded access to care because of issues related to transportation, child care, senior care and mobility were exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Chicago, in a statement.
“Telehealth was vital in allowing Sinai Chicago to continue to provide critical services to our community when it was needed most,” Teitelbaum continued.
“Over the past 18 months, hospitals across the state have made critical investments in telehealth and staff to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their patients safe,” said Illinois Health and Hospital Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi in a statement.
“IHA and the hospital community thank Governor Pritzker and his administration, and the General Assembly … for their leadership and work to make sure the vital benefits of telehealth for patients are not lost,” he added.
THE LARGER TREND
Although telehealth momentum has slowed somewhat, local governments have still taken action to safeguard virtual care for residents in lieu of strong federal action.
As of March 2021, 22 states had changed telemedicine laws during the pandemic, although not all of those will still be in effect after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
“If telemedicine proves to be a less costly way to deliver care, payers and consumers may benefit from expanding coverage of telemedicine after the pandemic,” wrote authors of a Commonwealth Fund report examining state-by-state coverage this past month.
ON THE RECORD
“The need for telehealth services has always existed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated that need,” said State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago. “I’m ecstatic that this measure will give patients the flexibility to receive the treatments they need, whether it be isolation due to an illness or remote services due to a lack of mobility.”
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