Amid the spike in cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that extends for the next two years the requirement adopted at the beginning of the pandemic that health benefits plans must reimburse health care providers for telehealth and telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person services, with limited exceptions.
“Telehealth and telemedicine services have been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and will stay with us long after the pandemic is over,” said Gov. Murphy in a statement. “New Jerseyans have greater access to the health care they need with the proliferation and expansion of these services, and with this legislation, we are ensuring that this new technology can remain viable as we emerge from the pandemic while also ensuring that New Jersey remains at the forefront of innovative health care policy that serves all New Jerseyans.”
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the legislation also tasks the New Jersey Department of Health with conducting an in-depth study of the utilization of telehealth and telemedicine and its effects on patient outcomes, quality and satisfaction, and access to care in order to inform future decisions on payment structure for these services.
Gov. Murphy’s office said the legislation will “provide critical support to patients and providers while the State continues to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, and while the Department of Health evaluates how to best leverage payment and telemedicine to improve access to affordable care and maintain the highest quality of care possible.”
One of the bill’s cosponsors, Democratic state Sen. Nia Gill, stressed how the bill will capitalize on technology to address health disparities across the state.
“In the last year, we have all witnessed how hard-hit the state of New Jersey has been by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Gill. “With that, health disparities among communities have come to light, highlighting how access to healthcare can greatly vary across the state. We have seen though that telehealth technology and services have allowed for greater access to healthcare for all residents throughout the state. These virtual health care appointments have expanded access for those who might not have been able to receive it or might not otherwise seek care. Ensuring that reimbursement for telehealth services is equal to in-person appointments for the duration of the pandemic and the Department of Health’s study will ease the stress and issues that currently exist.”
In addition to extending the reimbursement pay parity requirement for the next two years, the bill also permanently prohibits insurance carriers from imposing geographic or technological restrictions on the provision of telehealth services, as long as the services being provided meet the same standard of care as if the services were delivered in person.