Advancing the Statewide Expansion of Telehealth Services

Since the start of the pandemic, OHIC's has prioritized ensuring the health and safety of Rhode Islanders. The office took immediate actions to ensure testing, treatment, and vaccines were available to all with no out-of-pocket costs from commercial insurers. Throughout the COVID19 state of emergency, OHIC took actions to make telemedicine widely accessible, including suspending certain state telemedicine restrictions previously in place. In 2021, OHIC successfully supported the enactment of amendments to the Telemedicine Coverage Act.

Rhode Island’s insurers and providers must be congratulated and thanked for their rapid adaptation of policies and procedures to expedite the use of telemedicine services during the COVID-19 PHE. Throughout the nation, telemedicine has become a critically important tool in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to increase access to needed health care services. Data has shown that certain populations and neighborhoods have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Addressing health inequity is critical, and recent Medicare data shows equal access to care being delivered via telemedicine. are also compelling reports that individuals facing behavioral health concerns—as well as children who lost in person special services as a result of the pandemic—are dependent on this expanded telemedicine as a lifeline to the assistance they need to be well and to progress, in the safety of their homes.

On an ongoing basis, OHIC believes that the following elements should be foundational to telehealth policy:

  • Audio-only telemedicine should be covered on a permanent basis.
  • No restrictions on patient location for telemedicine should be in place.
  • Telemedicine for behavioral health services and primary care services should be paid at the same rate as in-person visits regardless of modality.
  • Cost-sharing for telemedicine visits should not exceed cost-sharing for in-person visits.
  • Prior authorization requirements for telemedicine should be no more stringent than prior authorization requirements for in-person care.
  • No restrictions on which provider types can provide telemedicine services within their scope of practice should be in place.