After signing the bill on New Year’s Day, Baker said that the commonwealth – and the nation as a whole – needs to come up with a long-term plan to make telehealth a standard of care and pay providers for its use.
“I’ve thought for a long time that because as a country we underinvest in primary care and behavioral health services a lot of people who could be treated in the community end up in the hospital and we will basically have a chance here to study this question,” he said. “I think we’ll discover that by investing more or giving people more options to access care and supports they will stay healthier and spend less time in the hospital.”
The provisions of the new law include:
Requiring coverage of telehealth services including behavioral health care
Telehealth visits became much more common during the pandemic, the new law mandates equal coverage for virtual visits, including behavioral health.
Expanding Scope of Practice for Advanced Practice Nurses and Optometrists
The scope of care was increased for some practitioners to help address the increased need during the pandemic. The law allows for these changes to become permanent for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, optometrists, and psychiatric nurse mental health specialists. Mental health billing companies in Massachusetts are also happy about this new law.
Increasing disclosures around provider costs and network status to protect consumers from surprise medical bills
Among the steps to address surprise bills, providers must now tell a patient if a procedure is in network or out of network.
Removing barriers to urgent care centers for MassHealth members
The new law requires urgent care to those with mass health. It also does away with referral requirements and coordinating with a patient’s primary care physician to allow easier access to Urgent Care clinics for MassHealth members.
Extending insurance coverage and access to COVID-19 testing and treatment
The Baker administration said the law also extends requirements for all insurance carriers in Massachusetts to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment.
The new law requires insurance companies, including MassHealth, to cover all inpatient, emergency, and cognitive rehab services related to COVID-19 care, as well as necessary outpatient testing. This includes testing for people who are asymptomatic. The law also calls for a study and report on how the pandemic affected the health care system.
Directing a study and report of the impacts of COVID-19 on the health care system
The legislation also directs the Health Policy Commission and Center for Health Information and Analytics to analyze and report on the effect of COVID-19 on healthcare accessibility, quality and fiscal sustainability in both the short and long term, as well as those effects on long-term policy considerations, including an examination of existing healthcare disparities due to economic, geographic, racial or other factors
“Massachusetts has long been a leader in ensuring health care quality and access and with this new law, we are making further progress in building a strong, accessible and affordable health care system, a goal that is more important now than ever,” Baker said