American Psychological Association Urges States, Insurers to Remove Telehealth Roadblocks During COVID-19 Crisis

The American Psychological Association (APA) is asking states and insurers to temporarily remove roadblocks that make it harder for mental health providers to offer telehealth services. Doing so is especially important in light of COVID-19, the APA says.

“This is an extraordinary public health crisis with vast and unpredictable implications for the nation’s mental health,” APA CEO Arthur Evans said in a press release. “Social isolation, grief, fear and stress are already having a real and crippling impact on Americans. Federal and state leaders and insurance companies must take immediate steps to expand access to mental health treatment for all.”

Specifically, the APA is asking state policymakers to temporarily suspend certain state licensing requirements for telepsychological services. It’s also asking private insurers to approve coverage for video and telephone-only mental health services without limitation, as well as for mental health testing.

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Delivering mental health services remotely reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19, keeping patients and clinicians safe physically without sacrificing people’s behavioral health care needs in the process. 

While Congress has passed legislation giving mental health providers more flexibility to deliver services to Medicare beneficiaries, those flexibilities stop short of allowing for the audio-only delivery of services to Medicare beneficiaries. That’s problematic because seniors don’t always know how to or have the ability to use video chat, the APA argued.  

Additionally, Congress has yet to roll out the comprehensive flexibilities for patients covered by Medicaid and private insurance plans. 

Some states have already moved to make it easier for providers to offer services to patients in different jurisdictions and to allow for the audio-only delivery of services. However, APA is urging all states and insurance companies to follow suit.

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