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HIPAA and Teletherapy Updates

HIPAA & TELETHERAPY UPDATES

HHS Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing certain regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to protect the privacy and security of protected health information, namely the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules (the HIPAA Rules). 

During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies. Some of these technologies, and the manner in which they are used by HIPAA covered health care providers, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules. 

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TSBEMFT Staff Reduced and Telephone Contact Suspended

TSBEMFT REPORTS REDUCED STAFFING, SUSPENDS TELEPHONE ACCESS

TAMFT has received the following update from TSBEMFT to share with our members:

"Due to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak we are operating with significantly reduced staff. As a result we have been forced to suspend telephone access. This is being done so the remaining staff can devote their time strictly to processing license applications. Given the rapidly changing circumstances we cannot provide an estimate for the resumption of access to staff by telephone."

TSBEMFT can still be reached via email at the following addresses:

Information is available on the TSBEMFT website at www.dshs.texas.gov/plc.

Emergency Rule for Telemedicine Announced by Governor Abbott

Emergency Rule for Telemedicine Announced by Governor Abbott

Governor Abbott announced on March 17 adoption of an emergency rule governing telemedicine and telehealth services provided by health professionals—specifically including mental health professionals—to reduce barriers to accessing services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule to help improve access to care, while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

  • TDI filed an emergency rule requiring insurers to pay the same amount for telemedicine and telehealth services, including specific coverage for mental health services, as they do for in-person services.
  • The rule applies to in-network services for state-regulated health plans including Medicaid, Medicare, and TRS. In addition, health plans may not limit, deny, or reduce payments based on the platform used (i.e. Skype, FaceTime, and telephone) by the provider to deliver services, or require documentation beyond what is currently required for in-person visits. This applies specifically to HIPAA compliant platforms for telemedicine/technology assisted services. Essentially, at the federal level, Health and Human Services relaxed HIPAA standards to allow providers to use platforms that are not specifically HIPAA compliant (like FaceTime and Skype). In the HHS statement, they continued the prohibition on sites like TikTok and others that would explicitly break client confidentiality. The goal of the action is to provide access to care, whether it’s the provider or client/patient who needs to use a noncompliant platform in order for the care to take place. The emergency rule can remain in effect for up to 120 days.


The emergency rule does not expand coverage beyond what is currently included in an individual’s health care plan or cover services provided before March 17, 2020. The rule allowing health plans to deny payment for services delivered by audio-only telephone, text, or fax remains in effect.

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TAMFT and TSBEMFT Ask Governor Abbott for Help With Coronavirus

TAMFT and TSBEMFT Ask Governor Abbott for Help With Coronavirus

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists requires MFTs to have 15 hours of training to perform teletherapy. TSBEMFT has informed TAMFT that it has petitioned the Governor's Office for a suspension of the rules related to training requirements and waits for Governor Abbott's approval.

TAMFT has also been working diligently with our Mental Health partners and delivered a letter to the Governor's office requesting help during this stressful time. Further updates will be shared with members via email and on our Latest News page.

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BHEC Meeting October 15: Live Webcast Link

BHEC Meeting to Be Held October 15: View Live Online or Register for Public Comment

The following boards will join the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) on September 1, 2020. In preparation for this transfer BHEC will hold a meeting on October 15, 2019. The meeting will begin at 11:00 a.m. Central Time. Public comment will be accepted during the meeting, or you may view the meeting via webcast.

The meeting agenda can be found at:

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HB 1501 Passes Senate and House

Legislative Update: HB 1501 Passes Senate and House; Moves to Governor's Office

After a 4-year process, TAMFT is excited to announce HB1501 has passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governors’ Desk! We have been in touch with the Governor’s office, and we are not anticipating a veto. 
 
On Wednesday, the House concurred with Senate amendments, with HB 1501 passing by a vote of 129-14 at 5:30 p.m. with key deadlines looming. After many meetings, working closely with our Social Work and LPC partners, the creation of the Behavioral Health Executive Council is now official. 

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