Epstein Becker Green’s 2021 Telemental Health Laws survey of state telehealth laws, regulations, and policies within the mental/behavioral health practice disciplines (and corresponding app available for iPhoneiPad, and Android devices), was featured in mHealth Times. Amy Lerman, co-author of the survey, discusses the upsurge of telehealth services and increased legislative focus on risk and compliance throughout COVID-19, and more.

Following is an excerpt:

In 2021, policies changed throughout the year and across the nation, representing the telehealth industry’s progression and enabling significantly greater provision of services via telehealth. Federal and state governments have continued to support flexibilities, put into place during the pandemic, that have promoted increased use of telehealth, both as lessons learned and to help lawmakers and regulators decide which temporary changes should  be made more permanent.

Uptick in Telehealth Fraud and Enforcement

As the quantity of telemental health services increase, more frequent fraud requires lawmakers to enforce rigorous guidelines at the state and federal levels. As EBG reports, aggressive enforcement actions from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) include:

  • In May, the DOJ addressed $143 million in false billing due to 14 telehealth leaders filing fraudulent COVID-19 Medicare claims. In addition, the Center for Program Integrity, part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), took action against more than 50 medical providers for their involvement in schemes relating to abuse of CMS programs.
  • In September, the DOJ targeted approximately 150 defendants for their alleged participation in various health care fraud schemes that resulted in $1.4 billion in alleged losses in regards to telemedicine, COVID-19, substance abuse treatment facilities, and illegal opioid distribution schemes.
  • Also in September, the OIG reported that more than 20 states noted fraud, waste, and abuse as a “concern” specific to telehealth. Furthermore, the OIG recognized that some states do not have the resources to protect health care organizations against fraudulent schemes.

These enforcement actions demonstrate that the telehealth industry should not only consider the law from a policy and operations perspective, but should also invest in a robust compliance infrastructure.

The survey is co-authored by Amy Lerman and Francesca Ozinal and the following attorneys and contributors from EBG’s Health Care and Life Sciences team: Attorneys Alexis Boaz, Audrey Davis, Vidaur Durazo, Daniel Fahey, Jacqueline Frazer, Priya Kaulich, Devon Minnick, Lauren Petrin, Olivia Plinio, Matthew Sprankle, Christopher Taylor, and Bailey Wendzel; Law Clerks Nija Chappel, Julianna Dzwierzynski, Chloe Hillard, and William Walters; and 2021 Summer Associates Kayla Oakley and Timothy Rozier-Byrd.

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