The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) spoke in favor of legislation to protect telehealth from being regulated differently than in-person care at a May 26 Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry hearing.
Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), lead authors of the 2019 WI Act 56 Medicaid telehealth legislation, introduced SB 309 to create a definition of telehealth in the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) statute that would be consistent with the Medicaid definition of telehealth. WHA General Counsel Matthew Stanford, speaking on behalf of WHA, noted that the very favorable patient satisfaction and quality data on telehealth make it clear that demand for telehealth will continue well beyond the pandemic.
However, different licensing and examining boards at DSPS have begun to contemplate creating rules specific to telehealth, ostensibly to support telehealth practice in Wisconsin. While the Psychology Examining Board has simply proposed clarifying that licensure and professional and practice standards be the same for telehealth as they are for in-person care, the Occupational Therapy Credentialing Board has proposed creating a number of telehealth-only requirements regarding informed consent, collaboration and technology training, to name a few.
In speaking to the committee members, Stanford noted concerns from WHA’s Telehealth Work Group that these rulemaking efforts could be the start of a rush of new telehealth rulemaking that could result in a “patchwork quilt of telehealth regulations from multiple DSPS boards.” He said that the Medicaid telehealth legislation was governed by a simple premise: telehealth is health care, and "if telehealth is health care, then it should be regulated the same as in-person health care." Stanford said WHA is pleased to be working with the bill authors on an amendment that would add similar protections found in the Medicaid statute and placing these protections in the DSPS statute so that telehealth would not be regulated differently than in-person care.
Joining WHA in addressing the committee was Gundersen Health System Clinical Manager of Virtual Care Jessica Easterday, who is also a member of WHA’s Telehealth Work Group. Easterday voiced concerns that the various boards at DSPS might impose additional requirements for telehealth that will require staff to bear the added operational and regulatory burden of ensuring compliance with several different practices. This could create barriers to timely patient care. She said she supported an amendment to SB 309 as described by WHA that would prevent such a scenario from occurring and would reduce unique compliance burden on telehealth services.
Contact Stanford or WHA Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter with questions.