Governor Abbott announced on March 17th adoption of an emergency rule governing telemedicine and telehealth services provided by health professionals – specifically including mental health professionals – to reduce barriers to accessing services as a result of the Corona Virus pandemic.
The emergency rule, which can remain in effect for up to 120 days, requires health care plans to reimburse providers delivering services via telemedicine or telehealth at the same rate as in-person visits. In addition, health plans may not limit, deny, or reduce payments based on the platform used by the provider to deliver services, or require documentation beyond what is currently required for in-person visits.
The emergency rule does not expand coverage beyond what is currently included in an individual’s health care plan or cover services provided before March 17, 2020. The rule allowing health plans to deny payment for services delivered by audio-only telephone, text, or fax remains in effect. However the update from OCR (see below) would allow video chats that could include FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts and even Skype.
Although the Governor’s news release and the preamble to the emergency rules focus on telemedicine, the rule itself specifically includes telehealth services provided by mental health professionals.
The inclusion of mental health professionals in this emergency rule is a direct result of the coordinated advocacy and collaboration between the Texas Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers – Texas, the Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the Texas Psychological Association.