Virginia Expands Coverage for School Telehealth, Remote Patient Monitoring

Two bills headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk will expand Medicaid coverage for remote patient monitoring programs and telehealth services for school students regardless of whether they’re in school or at home.

A pair of bills headed to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk will expand the state Medicaid program to cover remote patient monitoring services and school-based telehealth programs.

HB 1987, recently approved by the House of Delegates after being combined with the Senate-approved SB 1338, establishes Medicaid coverage for RPM programs that provide home-based care for certain high-risk patients, medically complex infants and children, patients who have has transplants, patients who have undergone surgery and need care for up to three months afterwards, and those with chronic conditions who have been to the Emergency Department or hospitalized at least twice in the last year.

The bill defines RPM as the use of telemedicine and mHealth technologies to collect medical and other data from the patient in one location and send that data to care providers in another location for care management. It also allows care providers to prescribe certain medications via telehealth without first needing an in-person exam.

RPM has been a hot topic lately, with healthcare providers looking to the platform to push care for COVID-19 patients to the home. The Virginia bill taps into a growing interest to use RPM for other populations, especially those with chronic conditions and patients recently discharged after a hospital stay.

Finally, the bill requires the state Medicaid program, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, to create a reimbursement plan for audio-only telehealth services. That, too, has been a popular topic of conversation in states looking to set post-COVID-19 telehealth coverage. Supporters say audio-only platforms should be covered because the telephone may be the only means of accessing care in some areas, while opponents say the phone isn’t an appropriate modality to deliver care.

SB 1307, meanwhile, amends the state’s Medicaid program to cover school-based healthcare services – including services delivered by telehealth – regardless of whether the student is in a school-based or individualized education program.

The bill is designed to ensure that students receive school-based telehealth services when they’re in a remote learning program, a common by-product of the coronavirus pandemic. It also recognizes that students may need access to telehealth services whether they’re in school or at home.

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