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Senate Committee Clears Bill Requiring Expanded Coverage Under Telemedicine and Telehealth Law

TRENTON – A bill that would revise the telemedicine and telehealth law, to require health benefit plans to provide expanded coverage for services permitted under the law was passed out of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. 
The bill, S-2559, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Nia Gill, would specifically require that reimbursement for telemedicine and telehealth services be equal to the reimbursement rate for the same services when those are provided in person. 
Under current law, telemedicine and telehealth services may be reimbursed up to the amount at which that service would be reimbursed if provided in person. In effect, this means carriers can negotiate reimbursement rates that are sometimes less than the in-person rate for services performed via telemedicine and telehealth. This legislation would prohibit that from happening and codify so-called “pay parity” in such instances.
“Given that many physicians, for good reason, are encouraging more medical visits, consultations and clinical services be conducted through telemedicine and telehealth services due to the coronavirus pandemic, we must make sure there is a ‘pay parity,’ being incorporated for services rendered,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).  
 “The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the disparities we know exist in access to healthcare and inequities in treatment and diagnosis. The state of New Jersey is among the hardest hit in the nation during this pandemic, stressing an already challenged healthcare system,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex). “This legislation will allow greater access to preventive health services and treatment through telehealth, expanding access for those who might be unable to receive or might not otherwise seek care. With the current improvements in Telehealth technology, this bill will allow greater access to health services for all, particularly those in traditionally underserved communities.”
Additionally, the bill would prohibit health benefits plans, Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare and the SHBP and SEHBP from imposing “place of service” requirements on services provided using telemedicine and telehealth and would expressly allow health care providers to provide telemedicine and telehealth services using any electronic or technological platform so long as it allows the provider to meet the same standard of care as would be provided if the services were rendered in person, and is compliant with federal health privacy rules.
“During these trying times when another COVID 19 surge continues to wreak havoc on our state, and hampers medical providers’ ability to provide health care services, it is only right and fair for patients to be allowed more flexibility to access these services at a reasonable rate of coverage,” added Gopal.
The bill was passed out of committee, by a vote of 8-0.