A Telehealth Model Statute and Other Policy Recommendations

Advancing California’s Leadership in Telehealth Policy

CCHP’s Model Statute report, which recommended policies to improve the telehealth policy and practice environment in California, became the basis for the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011.

In 2009 with a grant from The California Endowment, CCHP launched a year-long research project to identify where California telehealth policy may have become outdated and obstructive for technology-enabled health care delivery. This project convened a work group of 25 nationally prominent health experts to examine and discuss current California policies, state and national research, and key informant interviews with the goal of developing practical policy recommendations for California.

Model Statute Report

The final report, “Advancing California’s Leadership in Telehealth Policy,” identified policies to promote greater, more beneficial use of telehealth across California. CCHP developed the report with policy makers in mind, providing a platform to update California’s existing Telemedicine Development Act of 1996 (TDA) and create an ideal policy environment for telehealth in California.

The model statute report offered policy recommendations that included:

  • Redefine “telemedicine” as “telehealth,” to reflect changes in technologies, settings and applications;
  • Incorporate mechanisms into loan repayment programs that assure telehealth technologies are being used to expand access to health care for the underserved;
  • Require coverage of encounters irrespective of the setting;
  • Remove the 2013 sunset on Medi-Cal reimbursement for store and forward teledermatology and teleophthalmology.

Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011

Before the Model Statute report, the foundation of California’s telehealth law was the Telemedicine Development Act of 1996 (TDA). Though groundbreaking at the time, the law became outdated as years passed, and eventually hindered telehealth from benefitting the health care system.

Recommendations from the Model Statute Report, which sought to update the TDA, became the basis for Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Chico)’s AB 415, the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011. AB 415 passed with unanimous bipartisan support, and became law in 2012. Some of the key advancements in the law include:

  • A broadly defined “telehealth” now replaces “telemedicine,” and is recognized as  a mode of delivering services rather than a distinct service;
  • All licensed health professionals can use telehealth to deliver services;
  • Telehealth can take place in many more locations than before.

California after AB 415

Despite this advancement in telehealth policy, there continues to be limited utilization of these technology tools in practice across the state. Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, did not implement AB 415’s changes into its operational manuals until September 2013, and regulatory boards continue to weigh their response to the new law.

Support for the project came from The California Endowment.