On September 25, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott announced via press release that Texas’ major health insurers have agreed to continue reimbursing network healthcare providers for telehealth appointments at the same rate which they pay for office visits through the end of 2020. According to the press release, “while the agreement applies only to state-regulated plans, both the Employee Retirement System and the Teacher Retirement System will continue telehealth payment parity through the end of the year as well.”
The press release goes on to explain that telehealth allows patients to receive healthcare services in a location separate from their provider through virtual and other technological communications platforms. According to a new study by Accenture, an estimated 4.5 million Texans have begun using virtual healthcare services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 17, 2020, Governor Abbott waived certain state regulations and directed that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) issue a new emergency telemedicine rule, to be effective immediately. Under the new rule, physicians and other healthcare professionals in Texas were eligible for payment from insurance plans regulated by the TDI for medical visits they conducted over the phone at the same rate they would have receive for in-person visits. This order was originally set to expire on July 14. The rule was extended and remained in effect through September 12. The fate of the order was unclear after September 12, but this press release seems to provide some guidance.
However, it is important to note that this is simply an agreement made with the insurance companies and so it is difficult to know the full parameters of the agreement and/or exactly which health insurance plans are involved. Aside from the Governor’s press release, no agreement or new rule has been published.