The California Legislature on Friday approved a California Medical Association (CMA)-sponsored bill to increase patient access through telehealth. The bill (AB 744, Aguiar-Curry) will require health insurers to cover services provided via telehealth in the same way they would an in-person encounter. The bill now heads to Governor Newsom for his signature.

Patient access to providers and healthcare services is an ongoing concern throughout the state. Telehealth overcomes access and cost barriers by utilizing technology to better harness physician time and expertise, and connects patients to their care providers more quickly, efficiently and conveniently. 

Although California law does recognize telehealth as a legitimate means of providing healthcare services, the language is insufficient to ensure that physicians are reimbursed for services provided via telehealth. Studies have demonstrated telehealth services have improved outcomes and continuity of care for patients, particularly in rural settings.

This bill will require that payor contracts issued, amended or renewed after January 2, 2021, to specify that the payor will reimburse physicians for services delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the payor reimburses for the same services provided in person.

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