Telemedicine laws in Texas got revamped this week as the coronavirus spreads through the state.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he was waiving a slew of regulations that made it harder for doctors to treat people remotely, also known as telemedicine or telehealth.
“As the State of Texas responds to COVID-19, we continue to work to maintain regular health care services and operations throughout the state, and telemedicine is one of the most valuable tools we have to ensure Texans continue to receive the health services they need,” Abbott said. “Expanding telemedicine options will help protect the health of patients and health care professionals, while help Texas mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Among the changes: Reimbursements doctors receive for providing care through telemedicine are now the same as in-person care; providers can use whatever platform they prefer or have available to them; and doctors no longer have to establish in-person care of a patient before they use telehealth services.
“We need these folks to be able to ramp up quickly to service their patients,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Insurance. “You can bet that your doctor has a phone. If your doctor suddenly had to have a whole new service to come in and provide other things, that’s going to take longer. We don’t have that kind of time right now.”
The bulk of these changes apply only to people with state-regulated plans – which is about 15% of Texans – however. About 40% of health plans in Texas are federally regulated.