Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Expands Telemedicine Access in Light of COVID-19
March 27, 2020
By Allison Davis
On March 25, 2020, Governor Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-15 (“EO 15”) for the expansion of telemedicine in Arizona. This order went into immediate effect upon its issuance and provides for all insurance plans in the state to cover telemedicine visits the same way they cover in-person visits (known as telemedicine parity), requires AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid plan) to cover telemedicine visits, allows any Arizona licensed medical professionals to provide telemedicine regardless of what their licensing board regulations provide, and allows providers with prescribing authority to prescribe without conducting an in-person examination first. This expansion of the permissive use of telemedicine in Arizona is intended to conform to CDC recommendations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmissions that could occur through in-person visits with health care professionals.
EO 15 may be more easily implemented than some of the other Executive Orders declared by Governor Ducey’s office this week as a telemedicine parity law in Arizona was passed nearly unanimously on April 18, 2019 that mirrors the parity language found in EO 15. This law, SB 1089, is set to go into effect January 1, 2021, so it is possible that insurers in the state had already been working on parity implementation before EO 15 was issued.
Although EO 15 allows for significant expansion of the use of telemedicine in Arizona, there are still general restrictions on the use of telemedicine that could impact providers. For example, most states require physicians to be licensed to practice in the state where the provider is conducting the telemedicine visit, and some states require providers using telemedicine across state lines to be licensed in the state where the patient is located. During this public health emergency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has relaxed its enforcement of certain regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act pertaining to telemedicine platforms. However, providers should be aware that there are still limits on which platforms will be subject to this moratorium on enforcement. Additionally, care provided via telemedicine is still patient care. Therefore, it is important for providers to consider what informed consent is appropriate to obtain from the patient before providing care via telemedicine, and what additional precautions a provider may wish to take to ensure that patients are receiving quality care in the digital world.