41.05.690  <<  41.05.700 >>   41.05.730

Reimbursement of health care services provided through telemedicine or store and forward technologyAudio-only telemedicine.

*** CHANGE IN 2022 *** (SEE 1821-S.SL) ***
(1)(a) A health plan offered to employees, school employees, and their covered dependents under this chapter issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2017, shall reimburse a provider for a health care service provided to a covered person through telemedicine or store and forward technology if:
(i) The plan provides coverage of the health care service when provided in person by the provider;
(ii) The health care service is medically necessary;
(iii) The health care service is a service recognized as an essential health benefit under section 1302(b) of the federal patient protection and affordable care act in effect on January 1, 2015;
(iv) The health care service is determined to be safely and effectively provided through telemedicine or store and forward technology according to generally accepted health care practices and standards, and the technology used to provide the health care service meets the standards required by state and federal laws governing the privacy and security of protected health information; and
(v) Beginning January 1, 2023, for audio-only telemedicine, the covered person has an established relationship with the provider.
(b)(i) Except as provided in (b)(ii) of this subsection, a health plan offered to employees, school employees, and their covered dependents under this chapter issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, shall reimburse a provider for a health care service provided to a covered person through telemedicine the same amount of compensation the carrier would pay the provider if the health care service was provided in person by the provider.
(ii) Hospitals, hospital systems, telemedicine companies, and provider groups consisting of eleven or more providers may elect to negotiate an amount of compensation for telemedicine services that differs from the amount of compensation for in-person services.
(iii) For purposes of this subsection (1)(b), the number of providers in a provider group refers to all providers within the group, regardless of a provider's location.
(2) For purposes of this section, reimbursement of store and forward technology is available only for those covered services specified in the negotiated agreement between the health plan and health care provider.
(3) An originating site for a telemedicine health care service subject to subsection (1) of this section includes a:
(a) Hospital;
(b) Rural health clinic;
(c) Federally qualified health center;
(d) Physician's or other health care provider's office;
(e) Licensed or certified behavioral health agency;
(f) Skilled nursing facility;
(g) Home or any location determined by the individual receiving the service; or
(h) Renal dialysis center, except an independent renal dialysis center.
(4) Except for subsection (3)(g) of this section, any originating site under subsection (3) of this section may charge a facility fee for infrastructure and preparation of the patient. Reimbursement for a facility fee must be subject to a negotiated agreement between the originating site and the health plan. A distant site, a hospital that is an originating site for audio-only telemedicine, or any other site not identified in subsection (3) of this section may not charge a facility fee.
(5) The plan may not distinguish between originating sites that are rural and urban in providing the coverage required in subsection (1) of this section.
(6) The plan may subject coverage of a telemedicine or store and forward technology health service under subsection (1) of this section to all terms and conditions of the plan including, but not limited to, utilization review, prior authorization, deductible, copayment, or coinsurance requirements that are applicable to coverage of a comparable health care service provided in person.
(7) This section does not require the plan to reimburse:
(a) An originating site for professional fees;
(b) A provider for a health care service that is not a covered benefit under the plan; or
(c) An originating site or health care provider when the site or provider is not a contracted provider under the plan.
(8)(a) If a provider intends to bill a patient or the patient's health plan for an audio-only telemedicine service, the provider must obtain patient consent for the billing in advance of the service being delivered.
(b) If the health care authority has cause to believe that a provider has engaged in a pattern of unresolved violations of this subsection (8), the health care authority may submit information to the appropriate disciplining authority, as defined in RCW 18.130.020, for action. Prior to submitting information to the appropriate disciplining authority, the health care authority may provide the provider with an opportunity to cure the alleged violations or explain why the actions in question did not violate this subsection (8).
(c) If the provider has engaged in a pattern of unresolved violations of this subsection (8), the appropriate disciplining authority may levy a fine or cost recovery upon the provider in an amount not to exceed the applicable statutory amount per violation and take other action as permitted under the authority of the disciplining authority. Upon completion of its review of any potential violation submitted by the health care authority or initiated directly by an enrollee, the disciplining authority shall notify the health care authority of the results of the review, including whether the violation was substantiated and any enforcement action taken as a result of a finding of a substantiated violation.
(9) For purposes of this section:
(a)(i) "Audio-only telemedicine" means the delivery of health care services through the use of audio-only technology, permitting real-time communication between the patient at the originating site and the provider, for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.
(ii) For purposes of this section only, "audio-only telemedicine" does not include:
(A) The use of facsimile or email; or
(B) The delivery of health care services that are customarily delivered by audio-only technology and customarily not billed as separate services by the provider, such as the sharing of laboratory results;
(b) "Disciplining authority" has the same meaning as in RCW 18.130.020;
(c) "Distant site" means the site at which a physician or other licensed provider, delivering a professional service, is physically located at the time the service is provided through telemedicine;
(d) "Established relationship" means the covered person has had at least one in-person appointment within the past year with the provider providing audio-only telemedicine or with a provider employed at the same clinic as the provider providing audio-only telemedicine or the covered person was referred to the provider providing audio-only telemedicine by another provider who has had at least one in-person appointment with the covered person within the past year and has provided relevant medical information to the provider providing audio-only telemedicine;
(e) "Health care service" has the same meaning as in RCW 48.43.005;
(f) "Hospital" means a facility licensed under chapter 70.41, 71.12, or 72.23 RCW;
(g) "Originating site" means the physical location of a patient receiving health care services through telemedicine;
(h) "Provider" has the same meaning as in RCW 48.43.005;
(i) "Store and forward technology" means use of an asynchronous transmission of a covered person's medical information from an originating site to the health care provider at a distant site which results in medical diagnosis and management of the covered person, and does not include the use of audio-only telephone, facsimile, or email; and
(j) "Telemedicine" means the delivery of health care services through the use of interactive audio and video technology, permitting real-time communication between the patient at the originating site and the provider, for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. For purposes of this section only, "telemedicine" includes audio-only telemedicine, but does not include facsimile or email.

NOTES:

Conflict with federal requirements2021 c 157: See note following RCW 74.09.327.
Effective date2020 c 92: See note following RCW 48.43.735.
Effective date2017 c 219: See note following RCW 48.43.735.
Effective dateIntent2016 c 68: See notes following RCW 48.43.735.
Effective date2015 c 23 §§ 2-4: "Sections 2 through 4 of this act take effect January 1, 2017." [ 2015 c 23 § 7.]
Adoption of sections2015 c 23 §§ 2-4: "The legislature encourages health plans to adopt the requirements of sections 2 through 4 of this act prior to January 1, 2017. Therefore, nothing in this act prohibits a plan from adopting the requirements of sections 2 through 4 of this act prior to January 1, 2017." [ 2015 c 23 § 8.]
Intent2015 c 23: "It is the intent of the legislature to recognize the application of telemedicine as a reimbursable service by which an individual receives medical services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the provider. It is also the intent of the legislature to reduce the compliance requirements on hospitals when granting privileges or associations to telemedicine physicians." [ 2015 c 23 § 1.]
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