On Aug. 7, 2020, the Retaining Health Care Innovations Act was introduced in Pennsylvania by Rep. Christopher Quinn.
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What It Is
If passed and signed into law, this legislation would establish a run-out period for the termination of waivers and flexibilities that have been granted under the COVID-19 emergency declaration. These administrative exceptions, including those related to telemedicine, have allowed health care providers, facilities, and practitioners to maximize their resources and meet increased patient needs.
The proposed legislation would direct the Joint State Government Commission to recommend which waivers and flexibilities should become permanent. They will only do decide after consulting with an advisory committee comprising representatives from various health care organizations.
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Why It’s Important
Through the waivers and flexibilities granted under the emergency declaration, UPMC has been able to utilize resources and services in new and exciting ways. If a run-out period is not granted, then the extensions, exemptions, and expansions that the health care community have embraced and relied on will abruptly disappear. Patients also will be impacted by the reversion since they too have grown accustomed to expanded access and flexibility under the declaration.
Ultimately, this legislation presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders in the health care industry and government to take what is working for patients and providers and continue it beyond the pandemic.
Where UPMC Stands
UPMC strongly supports this legislation and believes it could encourage swift, comprehensive reform.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care was pushed into a new era of telemedicine. To prevent the virus’s spread while still caring for patients, providers like UPMC used the technology to diagnose and treat patients remotely.
While there are several flexibilities and waivers that we would like to see extended, the ones relating to telemedicine are particularly important and include:
- Allowing health care professionals, including advance practice providers (APPs)— licensed under any of the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs licensing boards — to provide telemedicine to patients.
- Between the time that Gov. Wolf issued this waiver on March 18 and Aug. 2, UPMC-affiliated APPs completed 94,115 telemedicine visits across a variety of specialties.
- Allowing Medicaid fee-for-service telephone-only services to be used for telemedicine when video technology is unavailable. Services rendered will be paid at the same rates as if they were rendered in-person at an enrolled location.
- Between March 16 and Aug. 3, UPMC providers completed 117,633 telephone-only telemedicine visits. These visits are especially valuable for vulnerable populations, including seniors and those who live in rural communities without strong internet connection.
- Allowing individuals with substance use disorders to receive counseling and other clinical services through telehealth technology and permitting telephone-only and in-home services when necessary.
- Between March 18, the date the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs issued this guidance, and Aug. 3, UPMC Behavioral Health Services completed 19,978 telemedicine visits for patients with substance use disorders, including opioid, alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco users.