Massachusetts governor signs law safeguarding telehealth coverage

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a wide-ranging bill that includes expanding access to telehealth after the COVID-19 public health emergency abates.

The legislation, which Baker signed on Friday, also includes provisions expanding the scope of practice for several types of clinicians; requiring providers to notify patients in advance about whether a procedure is in or out of network; increasing access to urgent care; and mandating insurance coverage for all COVID-19 related emergency, inpatient and cognitive rehab services.

“I am proud to sign this legislation which promotes telehealth services that have become vital during this pandemic, expands access to high-quality, affordable care, takes steps to protect consumers from surprise medical bills, and preserves access to COVID-19 testing and treatment,” said Baker in a statement.

WHY IT MATTERS

At the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Baker enacted an emergency order requiring insurers to cover telehealth in order to help ensure provider and patient safety. The new law makes some of those changes permanent, although others are only extended.

For example, the new law mandates that insurers cover virtual behavioral health services at the same rate as in-person services, and requires rate parity for primary care and chronic