The Public Health Emergency is Ending; What Now?

President Biden has informed the nation that the Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) will not be renewed when the current term comes to an end on May 11, 2023. That leaves many of us with many questions about what the future of telehealth will look like as we go forward. 
Some aspects of telehealth coverage by insurers is governed by Oregon state statutes, while other aspects follow Federal guidelines. Oregon has been very proactive these past 3 years in passing legislation to protect telehealth, and specifically behavioral telehealth. Thanks to Oregon House Bill 2508, Oregon’s telehealth regulations can be found here. Oregon’s law covers Medicaid/OHP as well.
The important parts include: 
A health benefit plan must provide coverage of a health service that is provided using synchronous two-way interactive video conferencing if:
  • The plan provides coverage of the health service when provided in person by a health professional;
  • The health service is medically necessary;
  • The health service is determined to be safely and effectively provided using synchronous two-way interactive video conferencing according to generally accepted health care practices and standards; and
  • The application and technology used to provide the health service meet all standards required by state and federal laws governing the privacy and security of protected health information.
As the Federal PHE ends, some things will tighten back up. For example, during the PHE, some providers were using non-HIPAA compliant platforms for telehealth, which will no longer be allowed. You should be using a HIPAA-compliant platform, and there are many free ones that provide a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). 
As far as Medicare is concerned, most telehealth in Medicare has been extended into 2024. A great summary of the extended provisions and the permanent changes can be found on the HHS website here.
What still feels unknown: 
  • How will MedAdvantage plans and ERISA plans adjust to these changes?
  • How long will Oregon require masking in healthcare settings, including behavioral healthcare settings? The most updated information from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is here.
Other helpful resources include the following: