Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced legislation to expand and improve access to telehealth for all as part of the 2021 State of the State. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the inequities in our healthcare system and showed that telehealth is a critical tool to expand access and lower costs for low-income communities, especially for behavioral health support. During the crisis, the Governor took executive action to expand access to remote care, and these proposals codify and build on those successful reforms.
In partnership with the Reimagine New York Commission, the Governor will enact comprehensive telehealth reform to help New Yorkers take advantage of telehealth tools and address existing roadblocks. These reforms will address key issues like adjusting reimbursement incentives to encourage telehealth, eliminating outdated regulatory prohibitions on the delivery of telehealth, removing outdated location requirements, addressing technical unease among both patients and providers through training programs, and establishing other programs to incentivize innovative uses of telehealth.
"While New York State has been on the cutting edge of promoting telehealth for its residents, the adoption of telehealth by both patients and providers has been slow," Governor Cuomo said. "COVID-19 has changed not only the way we live, but the way healthcare providers support their patients, especially in regard to mental health. New Yorkers have adapted throughout 2020, but it is time to push telehealth to the next level in New York State and fully integrate it into our existing healthcare system. These proposals will better allocate our healthcare and technological resources for the 21st century."
Governor Cuomo proposes comprehensive reforms to permanently adopt COVID-19-era innovations that expanded access to physical health, mental health and substance use disorder services including:
Unlocking the Benefits of Telehealth Through Policy Modernization
The Governor's proposal includes the following regulatory and statutory changes to allow for greater flexibility in where and when patients use telehealth, while maintaining oversight to ensure high-quality care is delivered:
Ensuring Coverage and Reimbursement for Telehealth
Telehealth played an indispensable role in providing quality care to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. To build on what we have learned during the crisis, the Governor's proposal will:
Expanding the Use of Technological Advancements in Health Care
The Governor's proposal will also facilitate the adoption of innovations in technology to ensure higher quality and more efficient care for patients by:
Supporting Patients and Providers Through Professional Development, Education, and Innovative Support Programs
While regulatory flexibilities have increased access to services for many New Yorkers, telehealth is new for many and education and outreach is needed to help get people comfortable connecting with a provider from their home, while providers are also learning how to most effectively use this technology. With the support of the Reimagine New York Commission and the Department of Health, two initiatives are already underway to ensure the successful adoption of telehealth by patients and providers:
Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures and Chair of the Reimagine New York Commissioner Eric Schmidt said, "Promoting telehealth is a clear example of how New York can build back better. The pandemic opened New Yorkers' eyes to the efficacy and convenience of remote care. The Commission is putting forward recommendations to not only solidify the telehealth expansions that many New Yorkers have benefitted from in the last year, but also to go one step further to build a future in which telehealth can benefit us all. This comprehensive overhaul of telehealth policies, in addition to a series of innovative new programs, will ensure every New Yorker, regardless of circumstances, has the support and resources they need to gain access to physical and mental health care."
Chief Health Officer of Cityblock Health and Co-Chair of the Reimagine New York Commission Telehealth Working Group Dr. Toyin Ajayi said, "Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth showed the potential to expand access to high quality healthcare to traditionally underserved communities. And since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of New Yorkers have experienced firsthand telehealth's ability to deliver quality and convenient care. As we build back better, we have an opportunity to ensure that all New Yorkers are empowered to participate in telehealth. Doing so will bring us one step closer to ensuring all New Yorkers have access to the healthcare they deserve."
President of Cornell University and Co-Chair of the Reimagine New York Commission Telehealth Working Group Martha Pollack said, "Throughout the pandemic, use of telehealth by New Yorkers soared and patients and physicians alike saw proof of its power. We can unlock the potential of telehealth going forward by changing the ways in which New Yorkers access healthcare. This starts with comprehensive policy changes that give providers and patient's greater flexibility to use telehealth as they deem appropriate. And we can and must ensure that those New Yorkers who are most in need have greater access to care, through new investments in telehealth infrastructure, and through the creative integration of telehealth technologies with the kinds of human support that cannot be replaced."