One of WSHA’s top priorities in both policy and operations is advancing the use of telehealth services. As a result of last year’s legislation, a statewide Telehealth Collaborative has convened. Click here for more information about the Collaborative.

WSHA has successfully advocated for four new laws that will increase access to telehealth services:

HB 1196, passed in 2021Effective July 25, 2021

Beginning July 25th, 2021 audio-only telemedicine will be a covered and reimbursable service in Washington state. HB 1196 builds on Washington state’s telemedicine payment parity law by requiring reimbursement for audio-only telemedicine to be paid at “the same amount of compensation the carrier would pay the provider if the health care service was provided in person by the provider.” Additionally, hospitals will be able to grant privileges to physicians working at distant site hospitals for audio-only telemedicine. We are very pleased audio-only telemedicine will become a covered and reimbursable service in Washington state. WSHA strongly supported HB 1196 and the legislation was a top priority in our 2021 legislative agenda. WSHA remains engaged on this issue as the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and Health Care Authority implement the law. Click here to read WSHA’s bulletin on HB 1196.

SB 5385, passed in 2020Effective January 1, 2021

In 2020, the Washington State Legislature passed SB 5385, which requires commercial insurance, Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, PEBB, and SEBB health plans to reimburse for telemedicine services at parity to in-person services. SB 5385 also made an important change concerning store and forward technology. The bill removed the requirement that a patient have an in-person office visit with a referring provider before store and forward services may be reimbursed. After seven years of WSHA’s advocacy, Washington State joined 11 other states by passing its telemedicine payment parity law. This law will help ensure the continued growth of telemedicine services in Washington State. Click here to read WSHA’s June 2020 bulletin on SB 5385 and here to read WSHA’s January 2021 bulletin on SB 5385.

SB 5175, passed in 2015 – Effective January 1, 2017 

WSHA supported and worked this bill for three legislative sessions. Success is owed to a successful collaboration of lawmakers, WSHA, WSMA and insurers. The bill ensures payment for clinical services that are delivered to patients using real-time video and audio technology. Telehealth promises to improve access to health services and lead to improvements in medical care outcomes in a cost-effective way. The usefulness is obvious for rural communities, but the technology can help vulnerable patients and their caregivers in urban areas as well. The new law requires health plans to cover appropriate telehealth services, as long as the services would be covered in-person. The law does not establish payment rates, but it does create a better environment for providers and payers to negotiate arrangements for care provided through telehealth.

SB 6519, passed in 2016 – Effective January 1, 2018 for “home”

This bill establishes a telehealth collaborative housed at the UW to chart the future of telehealth and make regular reports to the legislature about telehealth. It also adds “home” as a site where patients can receive telehealth services for which their insurers will pay.

Reading the bills: Anything that starts with NEW SECTION is new language. Anything underlined is new language amended into existing statute. Anything struck out is old language that has been removed from the current statute.


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