Illinois Expands Access to Virtual Care

Advocacy Update – September 21, 2021

Illinois Expands Access to Virtual Care

The National Alliance on Mental Illness/Illinois (NAMI – Illinois) posted the following Healthcare IT News report (July 26, 2021), on their website:

lllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3308 that expands access to virtual care throughout the state. The bill requires insurance reimbursement parity for virtual mental health and substance use disorder services, as well as authorizing all other telehealth to be covered through 2027. The new law builds on executive orders Pritzker put into place earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the parity provision, HB 3308:

  • Prevents insurance plans from requiring a patient to attend an in-person visit before a telehealth service
  • Expands the early intervention services that can be provided through telehealth
  • Bars insurers from requiring patients to provide a reason for choosing a telehealth visit over an in-person consult

At the same time, it safeguards patients' ability to seek care in person if they so choose; insurers can't mandate that physicians offer telehealth or require individuals to see a healthcare provider virtually if they prefer an in-person visit.

Although telehealth momentum has slowed somewhat, local governments have still taken action to safeguard virtual care for residents in lieu of strong federal action.

As of March 2021, 22 states had changed telemedicine laws during the pandemic, although not all of those will still be in effect after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

"If telemedicine proves to be a less costly way to deliver care, payers and consumers may benefit from expanding coverage of telemedicine after the pandemic," wrote authors of a Commonwealth Fund report examining state-by-state coverage this past month.

"The need for telehealth services has always existed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated that need," said State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago. "I'm ecstatic that this measure will give patients the flexibility to receive the treatments they need, whether it be isolation due to an illness or remote services due to a lack of mobility."