Polis signs bill to keep access to telehealth

Gov. Jared Polis today signed a bipartisan bill to permanently expand telehealth services and coverage in Colorado.

Coloradans were given broader access to telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and SB 212 means that access won’t be lost when the emergency declaration ends.

Among other things, SB 212 requires that health insurance carriers, including Medicaid, cover telehealth visits for behavioral, mental and physical health care, as long as they are delivered on a HIPAA-compliant platform.

It also waives the requirement that patients have a pre-existing relationship with a provider in order to receive telehealth, and it bars insurers from imposing additional certification or licensure requirements on telehealth providers.

Specifically, the bill allows telehealth for assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, self-management, remote monitoring and recommendations for a consumer. 

It continues parity in billing for in-person and telehealth services and requires the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing to reimburse federally qualified health centers, rural health centers and the Indian Health Service for telemedicine services.

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Faith Winter (D-Westminster) and Jack Tate (R-Centennial) and Reps. Susan Lontine (D-Denver) and Matt Soper (R-Denver).

“I would like to see telehealth more widely used,” Soper said when the bill was introduced. “It’s not going to replace in-person visits because those have a time and a place, but it’s a great complementary piece to treating the whole patient.

“It respects the challenges some people face with transportation and allows safe, effective care. It’s just a win-win-win for patients, providers and the state.”

The legislation was supported by a wide range of Colorado health care organizations and consumer advocates, including the Colorado chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, the Home Care and Hospice Association of Colorado, Colorado Rural Health Center, University of Colorado and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The full bill is here.