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Access to Telehealth Treatment Largely Depends on State and Federal Regulations

Affect’s CMO discusses issues with Behavioral Health Business

Jon Peeples, MD, Affect’s Chief Medical Officer, talked to Morgan Gonzales of Behavioral Health Business about the regulatory landscape for providers as telehealth flexibilities enacted during the COVID pandemic are being reviewed by the government. Regulations are critical in either restricting or enabling access to Medicaid beneficiaries and make it possible for prescribers to treat substance use disorders online.

Jon Peeples is Affect's Chief Medical Officer
Jon Peeples, MD

Several regulations are expiring in 2024 and behavioral health providers who offer virtual care may face changes. Getting behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment digitally is widely preferred by many people over going to rehab clinics or in person appointments. Indications are that telehealth is likely here to stay.

A large number of Affect’s patients are covered by Medicaid and have limited options in getting effective care for their substance use disorders. Dr. Peeples pointed out how Affect works with state licensing bodies to be able to provide effective telehealth care.

“There’s variation from state to state on the actual requirements of individual licensing, but we believe our approach is a best practice that offers protection both for providers and patients,” Peeples said.

“States may have specific requirements for whether supervision can be conducted via telehealth,” Peeples continued. “This is an important consideration for counselors or social workers who don’t have independent licensure and for nurse practitioners in states that require them to have a collaborative relationship with a physician.”

As Affect expands across the nation to provide care in all 50 states, Dr. Peeples discussed how state regulations must be considered.

“In some states in which we operate, we’re the first and only fully telehealth SUD treatment provider to receive licensure,” he said. “Many states are still navigating telehealth themselves and can view telehealth as a repercussion of the pandemic instead of a beneficial service in its own right.”

Telehealth addiction treatment can be the difference in saving a life, and improving the lives of all the people who struggle with substance use disorders.

Nearly 12% of adult Medicaid beneficiaries are diagnosed with a SUD, and Medicaid’s site states that treatment that aims to manage SUDs provides substantial cost savings. However, Medicaid regulations may prevent some of its beneficiaries from receiving telehealth SUD treatment, according to Peeples. 

“Medicaid and licensing body regulations are often well-intentioned but can be out-of-date or misguided,” Peeples said. “States may also impose specific requirements for data collection, clinical processes, and staff training. These can vary widely, resulting in decreased access to care and difficulty scaling programs nationally.”

Increasing access to virtual treatment can be helped by states reducing restrictions on providers around Medicaid enrollments and reimbursements so more clinicians can provide care where it is needed.

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