by Camalot Todd, Nevada Current
Despite opposition from the Nevada Association of Health Plans, a statewide trade association representing insurance companies, a temporary pandemic-era law that expanded access to health care passed the Nevada Legislature this week with a constitutional majority.
Senate Bill 119 would continue telehealth access by requiring third-party insurers to cover telehealth at the same rates as in-person care. Telehealth was originally expanded under the state’s Declaration of Emergency for COVID-19, which ended in May 2022. The existing law’s expanded telehealth measures are scheduled to expire on June 30. SB 119 would repeal the expiration date, making the expanded access permanent.
The vote in favor of SB 119 was unanimous in both houses, except for one member of the assembly who was excused.
The pandemic era rule allowed telephone visits and non-HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant platforms to include practices across state lines, telephone visits, waiving pre-existing patient or provider relations, and authorized Medicare patients to access telehealth.
The expansion helped give access to care to Nevadans by allowing primary care providers to refer patients to specialists, saving time and money spent to travel to doctor’s appointments. It allowed more people to access behavioral health care services, which were used dramatically throughout the pandemic. While dipping from early pandemic peaks, the use of telehealth for behavioral and mental health care remains high.
SB 119 requires insurance to pay the same amount for telehealth services as in-person services if the care is delivered to patients in rural areas, by certain health care facilities, or for counseling and treatment related to a mental health condition or substance use disorder, including services delivered through an audio-only telehealth interaction; and are provided to patients on or after July 1, 2023.
The bill requires insurers to cover certain services provided through telehealth on par with services provided in person or by other means between May 20, 2023, and June 30, 2023.
The Nevada Association of Health Plans opposed the bill’s parity provisions, saying during a committee hearing in March that they would increase costs and “create an uneven playing field for providers who chose to only offer services virtually.”
Supporters of the bill include the Nevada Advanced Practice Nurses Association and the Nevada Health Centers, supporters of the legislation include the national nonprofit Comagine Health, the Nevada Psychological Association, and the Certified Community Behavioral Health Center, which has locations in Elko, Dayton, Carson City, and Reno.