The “State” of Telehealth: Illinois Moves to Expand Telehealth Coverage

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On May 30, 2021, Illinois lawmakers passed House Bill 3308 (“HB3308” or the “Bill”) aimed at expanding the use of telehealth services in the state. The Bill would increase access and coverage to telehealth by establishing payment parity for behavioral health and substance abuse services and by establishing a panel to study payment parity for all telehealth services.

HB3308 will incorporate and make permanent many of the temporary emergency actions taken during the public health emergency (the “Pandemic”). Once signed by Governor Jay Pritzker, the Bill will, among other things, provide Illinois residents with greater access to telehealth care services by limiting patient cost-sharing, expanding the use of remote monitoring, asynchronous telehealth and audio-only telehealth services, and expanding the list of providers allowed to use telehealth to include substance abuse professionals and those providing early stage intervention to children. In addition, HB3308 will allow for access to innovative telehealth services, reduce access barriers and improve patient outcomes.

Like many other telehealth bills, there has been some contention regarding parity for in person services and telehealth visits. HB3308 addresses this issue by offering limited parity, for those in need of mental health treatment and with substance abuse concerns. As discussed in our prior blog posts in our “State of Telehealth” series, telehealth services provide greater access to those in need of medical services. By creating parity for telehealth services, HB3308 promotes the use of virtual care technologies to help providers reach more people where they are, rather than requiring that they come to an office. Senator Dan McConchie, praised the bill for addressing “a lack of accessibility” in telehealth services, adding that the bill allows for more residents in all parts of the state to access healthcare services from anywhere.

The Bill also calls for the creation of a 14 member task force to study telehealth payment parity. The task force would be responsible for “reviewing existing plans and policies issued, delivered, and offered in this state with respect to coverage and reimbursement for telehealth services, relevant data on payment parity for telehealth services, and payment parity statutes in other states and provide recommendations on the economic feasibility and cost effectiveness of requiring payment parity for healthcare services provided via telehealth, including recommendations for possible legislation.” The task force would be expected to deliver its recommendations to the Governor and the general assembly by the end of 2021 and be dissolved at the beginning of 2023.

We will continue to update this article as additional information regarding the permanency of telehealth services becomes available.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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