The “State” of Telehealth: Oregon Looks to Provide Parity for Telehealth

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On June 1, 2021, the Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, signed House Bill 2508A (“HB2508A” or the “Bill”) which, among other things, requires parity for healthcare services delivered through telehealth, upon satisfaction of certain criteria. The Bill expands coverage of and reimbursement for telehealth services in Oregon, promoting equitable and safe access to care.

A key development of the COVID-19 public health crisis (the ‘Pandemic”) has been telehealth’s role in serving as a mechanism for expanded access to physical and behavioral health services to those individuals unable to receive care in a physical setting or who live in areas with limited access to health care services. Oregon, like many other states, has recognized the value of telehealth services, and as a result, has begun to take steps to ensure permanency for the temporary mandates issued during the Pandemic. HB2508A encourages the continued use of telehealth by requiring the Oregon Health Authority (“OHA”) to reimburse health services delivered via telehealth if specified criteria are met including reimbursing a provider at the same rate for a health service delivered in person or through telehealth.

The Bill provides a list of requirements for OHA in ensuring parity, including but not limited to:

  1. Requiring that applicable health plans reimburse providers at the same rate for health services delivered in person or via telehealth;
  2. Specifying that Medicaid and health plan reimbursement requirements do not prohibit the use of value-based payment methods, global budgets, or capitation arrangements;
  3. Requiring regulated health insurers ensure meaningful access to telehealth services including auxiliary aids and services, and provide services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate;
  4. Requiring that the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to report on the impact of reimbursement requirements to health insurance premiums no later than March 1, 2023; and
  5. Specifying that OHA, coordinated care organizations, and health plans are not required to pay for a health care service if it is not included in national coding standards.

HB2508A also expands access through telehealth modalities, including: (i) health effects attributed to the Pandemic, (ii) the appropriateness of services delivery, in-person or telehealth, (iii) coverage parity for services delivered in-person or through telehealth, and (iv) a proposed date on payment parity provisions.

Many are in support of Oregon’s detailed telehealth bill, including Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Chief Medical Officer at ZoomCare, who states that “Telehealth care is an important mainstream care option to offer to those who want it, not just a nice-to-have addition. HB 2508A recognizes that and brings it to fruition for Oregonians”.

The Bill went into effect on June 1, 2021, continuing a recent trend among states to offer parity for telehealth, encouraging the use of telehealth for providing access to treatment services for its residents. We will continue to monitor the progression of other telehealth news coming out of Oregon and other states in our “State” of Telehealth series.

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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