Amy Lerman and Epstein Becker Green Featured in “Telebehavioral Health Regulation Was Dominated by Emergency Waivers and Fraud Enforcement in 2020”


Amy Lerman, author of Epstein Becker Green’s 2020 Telemental Health Laws Survey, was quoted in MobiHealthNews, in “Telebehavioral Health Regulation Was Dominated by Emergency Waivers and Fraud Enforcement in 2020,” by Dave Muoio. For more information and to read our analysis of regulatory requirements for professional mental/behavioral health practitioners and stakeholders seeking to provide telehealth-focused services, please see our Executive Summary and the firm’s press release, and download the complimentary appꟷavailable for iPhoneiPad, and Android devices.

Following is an excerpt:

This month saw the annual release of Epstein Becker Green’s Telemental Health Laws Survey, a state-by-state review of behavioral telehealth legislation, regulation and policies.

Available in full as a free Android and iOS app, this year’s breakdown includes regulation information for Puerto Rico, alongside the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Why It Matters

Outside of compiling state-specific information for use by providers and other stakeholders, the firm’s review pulls out top-level trends that characterize the government’s current role in supervising remote behavioral health delivery. For 2020, that meant increased messaging from healthcare officials such as CMS Administrator Seema Verma on the value of these services, as well as more attention from federal departments focused on enforcement.

Citing the Department of Justice and the HHS Office of Inspector General’s recent progress update on the 2020 National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown, the law firm found that $4.5 billion of the year’s $6 billion in false and fraudulent claims were tied either to telehealth or “telefraud.” Those involved in these cases included telehealth executives, durable medical-equipment company owners, genetic testing labs, practitioners, marketers and others.

“While by no means the first sign that telehealth is ripe for enforcement, the Takedown is a warning to the telehealth industry that there is a need, not only to consider the law from a policy and operations perspective, but also to invest in a robust compliance infrastructure,” Amy F. Lerman, part of EBG’s Health Care and Life Sciences practice and an author of the survey, wrote in an overview of the findings. “The Takedown sharply demonstrates that, for telehealth providers, compliance is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have, as part of their operational infrastructure.”

Unsurprisingly, much of the increased government attention on behavioral telehealth came in the context of COVID-19. This action came in the form of a nationwide public health emergency declared in March, a decision by the Drug Enforcement Agency to remove the requirement for an in-person evaluation when prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine, and subsequent emergency orders issued at the state level.