Connecticut Extends Expansion of Access to Telehealth Services
On March 14, 2021, Connecticut Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 10C (EO 10C), which extends provisions of Public Act 20-2 (PA 20-2), a law passed by the Connecticut legislature in July 2020 that “provided additional flexibility for the delivery of telehealth services and insurance coverage of these services” but was scheduled to expire March 15, 2021. As a result of EO 10C, the provisions of PA 20-2 that were scheduled to expire on March 15 will remain in effect through April 20, 2021, in part to give the state legislature more time to “address the ongoing need for” expanded access to telehealth services.
PA 20-2 generally expanded the type of providers eligible to furnish telehealth services in Connecticut, and the methods by which telehealth services may be provided to patients during the effective period of PA 20-2. For example, PA 20-2 newly allowed in-network and Medicaid-enrolled providers to conduct telehealth visits via facsimile, texting, or electronic mail, or via audio-only telephone. PA 20-2 defines “telehealth provider” to include providers who are in-network or Medicaid-enrolled providers acting within their scope of practice and in accordance with the standard of care, and who meet certain licensure categories, including without limitation physicians and physician assistants, physical therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, podiatrists, advanced practice registered nurses and registered nurses, psychologists, professional counselors, dietician-nutritionists, pharmacists, and clinical social workers, among others.
Under PA 20-2, a telehealth provider is obligated to obtain and document a patient’s consent to receive telehealth services after notifying the patient of the treatment methods and limitations of treatment using a telehealth platform. Telehealth providers are also obligated to ask patients during their first encounter whether the patient consents to the telehealth provider sharing records concerning the telehealth interaction with the patient’s primary care provider. If the patient consents, the law requires the telehealth provider to provide the records to the primary care provider in a timely manner. Moreover, telehealth providers are prohibited from charging any facility fees for telehealth services during the effective period of PA 20-2.
PA 20-2 prohibits telehealth providers from using telehealth to prescribe controlled substances in Schedules I-III, except non-opioid drugs in Schedules II and III for patients with psychiatric disabilities or substance use disorders in accordance with federal and state law. Telehealth providers also must comply with HIPAA in furnishing telehealth services (including its security restrictions on certain devices and technologies), but PA 20-2 allows in-network and Medicaid-enrolled providers to use information and communications technologies as directed or approved by the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – the regulator responsible for HIPAA enforcement – which allows such providers to expand the types of communications platforms used in accordance with OCR’s notification of enforcement discretion issued in March 2020 (see our discussion of that notification here).