October 14, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
Governor Newsom has signed a California Medical Association (CMA)-sponsored bill to increase patient access through telehealth. The bill (AB 744, Aguiar-Curry) will require health insurers to cover services provided via telehealth in the same way they would an in-person encounter.
Patient access to providers and health care services is an ongoing concern throughout the state. Telehealth overcomes access and cost barriers by utilizing technology to better harness physician time and expertise, and connects patients to their care providers more quickly, efficiently and conveniently.
Although California law does recognize telehealth as a legitimate means of providing health care services, the language is insufficient to ensure that physicians are reimbursed for services provided via telehealth. Studies have demonstrated telehealth services have improved outcomes and continuity of care for patients, particularly in rural settings.
“This important legislation recognizes the need to update and modernize our health care system, to improve access to care for patients and make care easier and more convenient," says CMA President David H. Aizuss, M.D. "By creating a more consistent and reliable reimbursement structure for telehealth services, this bill will ensure that Californians, regardless of their location, have better access to necessary medical care, reduce overall costs of care for patients and to the system, and facilitate better physician communication with patients.”
This bill requires that payor contracts issued, amended or renewed after January 2, 2021, to specify that the payor will reimburse physicians for services delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the payor reimburses for the same services provided in person.