June 21, 2021
Last week, Spectrum News did a story on a recently released NYS Comptroller’s Report that analyzed how many providers have sought permanent licenses from OMH to offer telemental health services. The Comptroller’s Office is clearly concerned with access to care after the current COVID-19 pandemic.
If OMH providers do not seek state approval to provide services utilizing telemental health modalities, there is likely to be an exacerbation of serious access to care problems that mental health is already experiencing. But remember this: New York State has made both audio only and audio/video modalities permanent and reimbursable through the state’s Medicaid Program. And the state would first need to file a SPA and have it approved by CMS before it could change the reimbursement rates currently being paid. And while it is a bit more complicated in the private health plan space, and there is still important advocacy to do to codify rate parity, there has been movement that makes us far less dependent on the state’s Public Health Emergency, or an Executive Order.
We encourage all agencies to add telemental health services to your operating certificates as soon as you can. We want to assist any NYS Council member agency that has yet to file an Administrative Action and we will do whatever it takes to provide you with the assistance you need to make it happen. For providers who have been waiting for action from OMH on an application previously filed, and it is now beyond a reasonable period of time since you applied, please let me know so I can try to help move it along.
OMH has opportunities to improve TMH access and oversight, as follows:
- As of December 23, 2020, there were 448 OMH-licensed, designated, and/or funded mental health care providers operating 1,677 programs eligible to offer TMH; however, 307 of those 448 providers operating 1,050 programs were not approved to use TMH beyond the declared disaster emergency. As a result, some patients may no longer be able to access TMH services once the disaster emergency period ends.
- Oversight of a provider’s use of TMH is focused on the initial approval, and OMH does not have defined processes after this approval to continually oversee or monitor TMH. Additionally, OMH does not have a unit solely responsible for TMH oversight and has not developed standardized procedures or forms to incorporate reviews of TMH into its oversight processes. As a result, there is a higher likelihood for oversight issues to occur regarding the delivery of TMH services and a lack of assurance that services will be available to patients who would benefit from this method.