Telehealth Advancement Act Signed Into Law

Legislation to update California telehealth law and remove policy barriers to the use of telehealth services was signed into law on Oct. 7 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

AB 415, authored by Assembly Member Dan Logue, R-lLake Wildwood, and sponsored by the California State Rural Health Association, will update legal definitions of telehealth, streamline medical approval processes for the delivery of telehealth services, and modernize the state’s health care system by broadening the types of telehealth services that can be provided.

The bill garnered broad bipartisan support. The bill’s four co-authors are Assembly members Wesley Chesbro, D-North Coast, Cathleen Galgiani (D-Livingston), Dr. Richard Pan, D-Natomas, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella.

AB 415 drew from CCHP’s Telehealth Model Statute Report, which recommended modernizing state telemedicine and workforce laws, to encourage more robust adoption of telehealth technologies.  The report, released in March, identified policies to promote greater use of telehealth technologies, to maximize their benefit to all Californians.  CCHP provided technical support to AB 415's author and sponsor.

AB 415 incorporates report recommendations to create parity among clinical services, regardless of whether they are delivered in person or via telehealth.

The bill will:

  • Replace the outdated legal terminology of “telemedicine” with “telehealth;”
  • Update the definition of telehealth to reflect the broader range of services in use today, and apply the definition to all licensed health professionals;
  • Change the need for an additional written patient consent specifically for telehealth services to a verbal consent;
  • Remove the Medi-Cal rule requiring documentation of a barrier to an in-person visit before a beneficiary can receive telehealth services;
  • Include store and forward technologies as viable for all types of telehealth services;
  • Remove a twice-extended sunset date in Medi-Cal on store and forward services reimbursement for teledermatology, teleopthalmalogy and teleoptometry.
  • Eliminate restrictions on reimbursement of services provided via email or telephone;
  • Eliminate restrictions on the type of settings, such as doctors’ offices or hospitals, where telehealth services may be provided.

What AB 415 does not do:

  • It does not replace the health care provider with technology.  Rather, it preserves and enhances the provider-patient relationship, and enables health care professionals to make use of available technology to better serve their patients;
  • It does not change the scope of practice of any licensed health professional;
  • It does not change interstate licensure laws;
  • It does not change or dictate agreements between health plans and providers.  Health plans/insurers and providers retain the ability to make decisions regarding appropriate utilization controls and procedures.