48.43.734  <<  48.43.735 >>   48.43.740

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

(1)(a) For health plans issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2017, a health carrier 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, for health plans issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, a health carrier 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 carrier and the 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 carrier. 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) A health carrier may not distinguish between originating sites that are rural and urban in providing the coverage required in subsection (1) of this section.
(6) A health carrier 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 in which the covered person is enrolled 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 a health carrier 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 commissioner has cause to believe that a provider has engaged in a pattern of unresolved violations of this subsection (8), the commissioner 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 commissioner 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 commissioner or initiated directly by an enrollee, the disciplining authority shall notify the commissioner 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.
(9) [(10)] The commissioner may adopt any rules necessary to implement this section.

NOTES:

Conflict with federal requirements2021 c 157: See note following RCW 74.09.327.
Effective date2020 c 92: "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately [March 19, 2020]." [ 2020 c 92 § 5.]
Effective date2017 c 219: "Sections 1 through 3 of this act take effect January 1, 2018." [ 2017 c 219 § 4.]
Effective date2016 c 68: "Sections 3 through 5 of this act take effect January 1, 2018." [ 2016 c 68 § 7.]
Intent2016 c 68: "The legislature recognizes telemedicine will play an increasingly important role in the health care system. Telemedicine is a meaningful and efficient way to treat patients and control costs while improving access to care. The expansion of the use of telemedicine should be thoughtfully and systematically considered in Washington state in order to maximize its application and expand access to care. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to broaden the reimbursement opportunities for health care services and establish a collaborative for the advancement of telemedicine to provide guidance, research, and recommendations for the benefit of professionals providing care through telemedicine." [ 2016 c 68 § 1.]
Effective dateAdoption of sections2015 c 23 §§ 2-4: See notes following RCW 41.05.700.
Intent2015 c 23: See note following RCW 41.05.700.
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