Bill Text: CA AB32 | 2021-2022 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Telehealth.

Spectrum: Moderate Partisan Bill (Democrat 9-1)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-01-11 - Referred to Com. on HEALTH. [AB32 Detail]

Download: California-2021-AB32-Introduced.html


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 32


Introduced by Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Arambula, Bauer-Kahan, Burke, Cunningham, Cristina Garcia, Petrie-Norris, Quirk-Silva, Blanca Rubio, and Santiago)

December 07, 2020


An act to amend Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code, to amend Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code, and to amend Section 14087.95 of, and to add Sections 14092.4 and 14132.722 to, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to telehealth.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 32, as introduced, Aguiar-Curry. Telehealth.
Existing law provides for the Medi-Cal program, which is administered by the State Department of Health Care Services, under which qualified low-income individuals receive health care services. The Medi-Cal program is, in part, governed and funded by federal Medicaid program provisions. Under existing law, Medi-Cal services may be provided pursuant to contracts with various types of managed care health plans, including through a county organized health system. Under existing law, in-person contact between a health care provider and a patient is not required under the Medi-Cal program for services appropriately provided through telehealth. Existing law provides that neither face-to-face contact nor a patient’s physical presence on the premises of an enrolled community clinic is required for services provided by the clinic to a Medi-Cal beneficiary during or immediately following a proclamation declaring a state of emergency. Existing law defines “immediately following” for this purpose to mean up to 90 days following the termination of the proclaimed state of emergency, unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
Existing law, the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (Knox-Keene), provides for the licensure and regulation of health care service plans by the Department of Managed Health Care. Existing law provides for the regulation of health insurers by the Department of Insurance. Existing law requires a contract issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, between a health care service plan or health insurer and a health care provider to require the plan or insurer to reimburse the provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an enrollee, subscriber, insured, or policyholder appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent as the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Existing law requires a health care service plan contract or health insurance policy issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, to specify that coverage is provided for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth on the same basis and to the same extent as in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Existing law exempts Medi-Cal managed care plans that contract with the State Department of Health Care Services under the Medi-Cal program from these provisions, and generally exempts county organized health systems that provide services under the Medi-Cal program from Knox-Keene.
This bill would delete the above-described references to contracts issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, would require these provisions to apply to the plan or insurer’s contracted entity, as specified, and would delete the exemption for Medi-Cal managed care plans. The bill would subject county organized health systems, and their subcontractors, that provide services under the Medi-Cal program to the above-described Knox-Keene requirements relative to telehealth. The bill would authorize a provider to enroll or recertify an individual in Medi-Cal programs through telehealth and other forms of virtual communication, as specified.
This bill would require the State Department of Health Care Services to indefinitely continue the telehealth flexibilities in place during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency. The bill would require the department, by January 2022, to convene an advisory group with specified membership to provide input to the department on the development of a revised Medi-Cal telehealth policy that promotes specified principles. The bill would require the department, by December 2024, to complete an evaluation to assess the benefits of telehealth in Medi-Cal, including an analysis of improved access for patients, changes in health quality outcomes and utilization, and best practices for the right mix of in-person visits and telehealth. The bill would require the department to report its findings and recommendations from the evaluation to the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature no later than July 1, 2025.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The Legislature has recognized the practice of telehealth as a legitimate means by which an individual may receive health care services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the provider, and enacted protections in Section 14132.72 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to prevent the State Department of Health Care Services from restricting or limiting telehealth services.
(2) The use of telehealth was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency and has proven to be an important modality for patients to stay connected to their health care providers. Telehealth has been especially critical for California’s Medi-Cal patients.
(3) Patients have reported high satisfaction with telehealth, noting how easy it is to connect with their care teams without having to take time off work, find childcare, or find transportation to an in-person appointment.
(4) In addition to video access, audio-only care is essential because many patients have reported challenges accessing video technology due to limitations with data plans and internet access.
(5) Primary care and specialty care providers have found telehealth to be a critical access point to address a variety of health care needs, including helping patients manage chronic disease, adjust pain medications, and for followup visits after a procedure, among others.
(6) Behavioral health providers have found that offering telehealth has engaged patients in necessary care they would never have received if required to walk into a clinic.
(7) Health care providers have reported significant decreases in the number of missed appointments since telehealth became available, helping to ensure that patients receive high-quality care in a timely manner.
(8) Telehealth is widely available to individuals with health insurance in the commercial market, and existing law in Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code and Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code requires commercial health care service plans and health insurers to pay for services delivered through telehealth services on the same basis as equivalent services furnished in person. Medi-Cal must evolve with the rest of the health care industry to achieve health equity for low-income Californians.
(9) The expanded telehealth options that patients and providers have relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic should continue to be available to Medi-Cal recipients after the public health emergency is over.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to continue the provision of telehealth in Medi-Cal, including video and audio-only technology, for the purposes of expanding access and enhancing delivery of health care services for beneficiaries.

SEC. 2.

 Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

1374.14.
 (a) (1) A contract issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, between a health care service plan and a health care provider for the provision of health care services to an enrollee or subscriber shall specify that the health care service plan shall reimburse the treating or consulting health care provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an enrollee or subscriber appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health care service plan is responsible for reimbursement for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.
(2) This section does not limit the ability of a health care service plan and a health care provider to negotiate the rate of reimbursement for a health care service provided pursuant to a contract subject to this section. Services that are the same, as determined by the provider’s description of the service on the claim, shall be reimbursed at the same rate whether provided in person or through telehealth. When negotiating a rate of reimbursement for telehealth services for which no in-person equivalent exists, a health care service plan and the provider shall ensure the rate is consistent with subdivision (h) of Section 1367.
(3) This section does not require telehealth reimbursement to be unbundled from other capitated or bundled, risk-based payments.
(4) If a health care service plan delegates responsibility for the performance of the duties described in this section to a contracted entity, including a medical group or independent practice association, then the delegated entity shall comply with this section.
(5) The obligation of a health care service plan to comply with this section shall not be waived if the plan delegates services or activities that the plan is required to perform to its provider or another contracting entity. A plan’s implementation of this section shall be consistent with the requirements of the Health Care Providers’ Bill of Rights, and a material change in the obligations of a plan’s contracting network providers shall be considered a material change to the provider contract, within the meaning of subdivision (b) Section 1375.7.
(b) (1) A health care service plan contract issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, shall specify that the health care service plan shall provide coverage for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health care service plan is responsible for coverage for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Coverage shall not be limited only to services delivered by select third-party corporate telehealth providers.
(2) This section does not alter the obligation of a health care service plan to ensure that enrollees have access to all covered services through an adequate network of contracted providers, as required under Sections 1367, 1367.03, and 1367.035, and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
(3) This section does not require a health care service plan to cover telehealth services provided by an out-of-network provider, unless coverage is required under other provisions of law.
(c) A health care service plan may offer a contract containing a copayment or coinsurance requirement for a health care service delivered through telehealth services, provided that the copayment or coinsurance does not exceed the copayment or coinsurance applicable if the same services were delivered through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. This subdivision does not require cost sharing for services provided through telehealth.
(d) Services provided through telehealth and covered pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to the same deductible and annual or lifetime dollar maximum as equivalent services that are not provided through telehealth.
(e) The definitions in subdivision (a) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code apply to this section.

(f)This section shall not apply to Medi-Cal managed care plans that contract with the State Department of Health Care Services pursuant to Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 14000) of, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200) of, or Chapter 8.75 (commencing with Section 14591) of, Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

SEC. 3.

 Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code is amended to read:

10123.855.
 (a) (1) A contract issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, between a health insurer and a health care provider for an alternative rate of payment pursuant to Section 10133 shall specify that the health insurer shall reimburse the treating or consulting health care provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an insured or policyholder appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health insurer is responsible for reimbursement for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.
(2) This section does not limit the ability of a health insurer and a health care provider to negotiate the rate of reimbursement for a health care service provided pursuant to a contract subject to this section. Services that are the same, as determined by the provider’s description of the service on the claim, shall be reimbursed at the same rate whether provided in person or through telehealth. When negotiating a rate of reimbursement for telehealth services for which no in-person equivalent exists, a health insurer and the provider shall ensure the rate is consistent with subdivision (a) of Section 10123.137.
(3) If a health insurer delegates responsibility for the performance of the duties described in this section to a contracted entity, including a medical group or independent practice association, then the delegated entity shall comply with this section.
(4) The obligation of a health insurer to comply with this section shall not be waived if the insurer delegates services or activities that the insurer is required to perform to its provider or another contracting entity. An insurer’s implementation of this section shall be consistent with the requirements of the Health Care Providers’ Bill of Rights, and a material change in the obligations of an insurer’s contracting network providers shall be considered a material change to the provider contract, within the meaning of subdivision (b) Section 10133.65.
(b) (1) A policy of health insurance issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, that provides benefits through contracts with providers at alternative rates of payment shall specify that the health insurer shall provide coverage for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health insurer is responsible for coverage for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Coverage shall not be limited only to services delivered by select third-party corporate telehealth providers.
(2) This section does not alter the existing statutory or regulatory obligations of a health insurer to ensure that insureds have access to all covered services through an adequate network of contracted providers, as required by Sections 10133 and 10133.5 and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
(3) This section does not require a health insurer to deliver health care services through telehealth services.
(4) This section does not require a health insurer to cover telehealth services provided by an out-of-network provider, unless coverage is required under other provisions of law.
(c) A health insurer may offer a policy containing a copayment or coinsurance requirement for a health care service delivered through telehealth services, provided that the copayment or coinsurance does not exceed the copayment or coinsurance applicable if the same services were delivered through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. This subdivision does not require cost sharing for services provided through telehealth.
(d) Services provided through telehealth and covered pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to the same deductible and annual or lifetime dollar maximum as equivalent services that are not provided through telehealth.
(e) The definitions in subdivision (a) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code apply to this section.

SEC. 4.

 Section 14087.95 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

14087.95.
 Counties (a) A county contracting with the department pursuant to this article shall be exempt from the provisions of Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code for purposes of carrying out the contracts.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a county contracting with the department pursuant to this article shall comply with Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code.
(2) If a county subcontracts for the provision of services pursuant to this article, as authorized under Section 14087.6, the subcontractor shall comply with Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code.

SEC. 5.

 Section 14092.4 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, immediately following Section 14092.35, to read:

14092.4.
 For the purposes of enrolling patients in programs administered through Medi-Cal, including the Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment (Family PACT), presumptive eligibility Programs, accelerated enrollment programs, and the Medi-Cal Minor Consent program, a provider may determine program eligibility, enroll, and recertify patients remotely through telehealth and other virtual communication modalities, including telephone, based on the current Medi-Cal program criteria. The department may develop program policies and systems to support implementation of offsite eligibility determination, enrollment, and recertification.

SEC. 6.

 Section 14132.722 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, immediately following Section 14132.72, to read:

14132.722.
 (a) The department shall indefinitely continue the telehealth flexibilities in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those implemented pursuant to Section 14132.723.
(b) (1) By January 2022, the department shall convene an advisory group that includes representatives from community health centers, designated public hospitals, Medi-Cal managed care plans, consumer groups, labor organizations, behavioral health providers, counties, and other Medi-Cal providers.
(2) The advisory group shall provide input to the department on the development of a revised Medi-Cal telehealth policy that promotes all of the following principles:
(A) Telehealth shall be used as a means to promote timely and patient-centered access to health care.
(B) Patients, in conjunction with their providers, shall be offered their choice of service delivery mode. Patients shall retain the right to receive health care in person.
(C) Confidentiality and security of patient information shall be protected.
(D) Usual standard of care requirements shall apply to services provided via telehealth, including quality, safety, and clinical effectiveness.
(E) The department shall consider disparities in the utilization of, and access to, telehealth, and shall support patients and providers in increasing access to the technologies needed to use telehealth.
(F) When the care provided during a telehealth visit is commensurate with what would have been provided in person, payment shall also be commensurate.
(c) (1) By December 2024, the department shall complete an evaluation to assess the benefits of telehealth in Medi-Cal. The evaluation shall analyze improved access for patients, changes in health quality outcomes and utilization, and best practices for the right mix of in-person visits and telehealth.
(2) The department shall report its findings and recommendations on the evaluation to the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature no later than July 1, 2025.

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