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AB-32 Telehealth.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 05/24/2021 03:19 PM
AB32:v96#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  May 24, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 22, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  February 12, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 32


Introduced by Assembly Members Aguiar-Curry and Robert Rivas
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Arambula, Bauer-Kahan, Burke, Cunningham, Cristina Garcia, Petrie-Norris, Quirk-Silva, Blanca Rubio, Santiago, Berman, Calderon, Carrillo, Choi, Davies, Kalra, Lee, Maienschein, Quirk, Luz Rivas, Salas, Stone, and Villapudua)
(Coauthors: Senators Eggman, Gonzalez, and Wiener)

December 07, 2020


An act to amend Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code, to amend Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code, to amend Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code, and to amend Section 14087.95 of, and to add Sections 14092.4, 14132.721, and 14132.722 to, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to telehealth.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 32, as amended, Aguiar-Curry. Telehealth.
Existing law provides for the Medi-Cal program, which is administered by the State Department of Health Care Services, under which qualified low-income individuals receive health care services. The Medi-Cal program is, in part, governed and funded by federal Medicaid program provisions. Under existing law, Medi-Cal services may be provided pursuant to contracts with various types of managed care health plans, including through a county organized health system. Under existing law, in-person contact between a health care provider and a patient is not required under the Medi-Cal program for services appropriately provided through telehealth. Existing law provides that neither face-to-face contact nor a patient’s physical presence on the premises of an enrolled community clinic is required for services provided by the clinic to a Medi-Cal beneficiary during or immediately following a proclamation declaring a state of emergency. Existing law defines “immediately following” for this purpose to mean up to 90 days following the termination of the proclaimed state of emergency, unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
Existing law, the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 (Knox-Keene), provides for the licensure and regulation of health care service plans by the Department of Managed Health Care. Existing law provides for the regulation of health insurers by the Department of Insurance. Existing law requires a contract issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, between a health care service plan or health insurer and a health care provider to require the plan or insurer to reimburse the provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an enrollee, subscriber, insured, or policyholder appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent as the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Existing law requires a health care service plan contract or health insurance policy issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, to specify that coverage is provided for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth on the same basis and to the same extent as in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Existing law exempts Medi-Cal managed care plans that contract with the State Department of Health Care Services under the Medi-Cal program from these provisions, and generally exempts county organized health systems that provide services under the Medi-Cal program from Knox-Keene.
This bill would delete the above-described references to contracts issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, would require these provisions to apply to the plan or insurer’s contracted entity, as specified, and would delete the exemption for Medi-Cal managed care plans. The bill would subject county organized health systems, and their subcontractors, that provide services under the Medi-Cal program to the above-described Knox-Keene requirements relative to telehealth. The bill would authorize a provider to enroll or recertify an individual in specified Medi-Cal programs through telehealth and other forms of virtual communication, and would authorize a county eligibility worker to determine eligibility for, or recertify eligibility for, the Medi-Cal Minor Consent program remotely through virtual communication, as specified.
This bill would require health care services furnished by an enrolled clinic through telehealth to be reimbursed by Medi-Cal on the same basis, to the same extent, and at the same payment rate as those services are reimbursed if furnished in person. The bill would prohibit the State Department of Health Care Services from restricting the ability of an enrolled clinic to provide and be reimbursed for services furnished through telehealth. The bill would require the department to indefinitely continue the telehealth flexibilities in place during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency, except as specified. The bill would require the department, by January 2022, to convene an advisory group with specified membership to provide input to the department on the development of a revised Medi-Cal telehealth policy that promotes specified principles. certain principles, as specified. The bill would require the department, by July 2024, to complete an evaluation to assess the benefits of telehealth in Medi-Cal, including an analysis of improved access for patients, changes in health quality outcomes and utilization, and best practices for the right mix of in-person visits and telehealth. telehealth, as specified. The bill would require the department to report its findings and recommendations from the evaluation to the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature no later than October 31, 2024. The bill would also require the department, in consultation with various stakeholders, to develop one or more alternative payment models, as specified, and to submit and seek federal approval of the state plan amendment necessary for the implementation of those provisions to be effective no later than January 1, 2025.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The Legislature has recognized the practice of telehealth as a legitimate means by which an individual may receive health care services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the provider, and enacted protections in Section 14132.72 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to prevent the State Department of Health Care Services from restricting or limiting telehealth services.
(2) The use of telehealth was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency and has proven to be an important modality for patients to stay connected to their health care providers. Telehealth has been especially critical for California’s Medi-Cal patients.
(3) Patients have reported high satisfaction with telehealth, noting how easy it is to connect with their care teams without having to take time off work, find childcare, or find transportation to an in-person appointment.
(4) In addition to video access, audio-only care is essential because many patients have reported challenges accessing video technology due to limitations with data plans and internet access.
(5) Primary care and specialty care providers have found telehealth to be a critical access point to address a variety of health care needs, including helping patients manage chronic disease, adjust pain medications, and for followup visits after a procedure, among others.
(6) Behavioral health providers have found that offering telehealth has engaged patients in necessary care they would never have received if required to walk into a clinic.
(7) Health care providers have reported significant decreases in the number of missed appointments since telehealth became available, helping to ensure that patients receive high-quality care in a timely manner.
(8) Telehealth is widely available to individuals with health insurance in the commercial market, and existing law in Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code and Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code requires commercial health care service plans and health insurers to pay for services delivered through telehealth services on the same basis as equivalent services furnished in person. Medi-Cal must evolve with the rest of the health care industry to achieve health equity for low-income Californians.
(9) The expanded telehealth options that patients and providers have relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic should continue to be available to Medi-Cal recipients after the public health emergency is over.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to continue the provision of telehealth in Medi-Cal, including video and audio-only technology, for the purposes of expanding access and enhancing delivery of health care services for beneficiaries.

SEC. 2.

 Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read:

2290.5.
 (a) For purposes of this division, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Asynchronous store and forward” means the transmission of a patient’s medical information from an originating site to the health care provider at a distant site.
(2) “Distant site” means a site where a health care provider who provides health care services is located while providing these services via a telecommunications system.
(3) “Health care provider” means any of the following:
(A) A person who is licensed under this division.
(B) An associate marriage and family therapist or marriage and family therapist trainee functioning pursuant to Section 4980.43.3.
(C) A qualified autism service provider or qualified autism service professional certified by a national entity pursuant to Section 1374.73 of the Health and Safety Code and Section 10144.51 of the Insurance Code.
(4) “Originating site” means a site where a patient is located at the time health care services are provided via a telecommunications system or where the asynchronous store and forward service originates.
(5) “Synchronous interaction” means a real-time interaction, including, but not limited to, audiovideo, audio only, such as telephone, and other virtual communication, between a patient and a health care provider located at a distant site.
(6) “Telehealth” means the mode of delivering health care services and public health via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care. Telehealth facilitates patient self-management and caregiver support for patients and includes synchronous interactions and asynchronous store and forward transfers.
(b) Before the delivery of health care via telehealth, the health care provider initiating the use of telehealth shall inform the patient about the use of telehealth and obtain verbal or written consent from the patient for the use of telehealth as an acceptable mode of delivering health care services and public health. The consent shall be documented.
(c) This section does not preclude a patient from receiving in-person health care delivery services during a specified course of health care and treatment after agreeing to receive services via telehealth.
(d) The failure of a health care provider to comply with this section shall constitute unprofessional conduct. Section 2314 shall not apply to this section.
(e) This section shall not be construed to alter the scope of practice of a health care provider or authorize the delivery of health care services in a setting, or in a manner, not otherwise authorized by law.
(f) All laws regarding the confidentiality of health care information and a patient’s rights to the patient’s medical information shall apply to telehealth interactions.
(g) All laws and regulations governing professional responsibility, unprofessional conduct, and standards of practice that apply to a health care provider under the health care provider’s license shall apply to that health care provider while providing telehealth services.
(h) This section shall not apply to a patient under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or any other correctional facility.
(i) (1) Notwithstanding any other law and for purposes of this section, the governing body of the hospital whose patients are receiving the telehealth services may grant privileges to, and verify and approve credentials for, providers of telehealth services based on its medical staff recommendations that rely on information provided by the distant-site hospital or telehealth entity, as described in Sections 482.12, 482.22, and 485.616 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
(2) By enacting this subdivision, it is the intent of the Legislature to authorize a hospital to grant privileges to, and verify and approve credentials for, providers of telehealth services as described in paragraph (1).
(3) For the purposes of this subdivision, “telehealth” shall include “telemedicine” as the term is referenced in Sections 482.12, 482.22, and 485.616 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

SEC. 3.

 Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

1374.14.
 (a) (1) A contract between a health care service plan and a health care provider for the provision of health care services to an enrollee or subscriber shall specify that the health care service plan shall reimburse the treating or consulting health care provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an enrollee or subscriber appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health care service plan is responsible for reimbursement for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.
(2) This section does not limit the ability of a health care service plan and a health care provider to negotiate the rate of reimbursement for a health care service provided pursuant to a contract subject to this section. Services that are the same, as determined by the provider’s description of the service on the claim, shall be reimbursed at the same rate whether provided in person or through telehealth. When negotiating a rate of reimbursement for telehealth services for which no in-person equivalent exists, a health care service plan and the provider shall ensure the rate is consistent with subdivision (h) of Section 1367.
(3) This section does not require telehealth reimbursement to be unbundled from other capitated or bundled, risk-based payments.
(4) If a health care service plan delegates responsibility for the performance of the duties described in this section to a contracted entity, including a medical group or independent practice association, then the delegated entity shall comply with this section.
(5) The obligation of a health care service plan to comply with this section shall not be waived if the plan delegates services or activities that the plan is required to perform to its provider or another contracting entity. A plan’s implementation of this section shall be consistent with the requirements of the Health Care Providers’ Bill of Rights, and a material change in the obligations of a plan’s contracting network providers shall be considered a material change to the provider contract, within the meaning of subdivision (b) Section 1375.7.
(b) (1) A health care service plan contract shall specify that the health care service plan shall provide coverage for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health care service plan is responsible for coverage for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Coverage shall not be limited only to services delivered by select third-party corporate telehealth providers.
(2) This section does not alter the obligation of a health care service plan to ensure that enrollees have access to all covered services through an adequate network of contracted providers, as required under Sections 1367, 1367.03, and 1367.035, and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
(3) This section does not require a health care service plan to cover telehealth services provided by an out-of-network provider, unless coverage is required under other law.
(c) A health care service plan may offer a contract containing a copayment or coinsurance requirement for a health care service delivered through telehealth services, provided that the copayment or coinsurance does not exceed the copayment or coinsurance applicable if the same services were delivered through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. This subdivision does not require cost sharing for services provided through telehealth.
(d) Services provided through telehealth and covered pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to the same deductible and annual or lifetime dollar maximum as equivalent services that are not provided through telehealth.
(e) The definitions in subdivision (a) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code apply to this section.

SEC. 4.

 Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code is amended to read:

10123.855.
 (a) (1) A contract between a health insurer and a health care provider for an alternative rate of payment pursuant to Section 10133 shall specify that the health insurer shall reimburse the treating or consulting health care provider for the diagnosis, consultation, or treatment of an insured or policyholder appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health insurer is responsible for reimbursement for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.
(2) This section does not limit the ability of a health insurer and a health care provider to negotiate the rate of reimbursement for a health care service provided pursuant to a contract subject to this section. Services that are the same, as determined by the provider’s description of the service on the claim, shall be reimbursed at the same rate whether provided in person or through telehealth. When negotiating a rate of reimbursement for telehealth services for which no in-person equivalent exists, a health insurer and the provider shall ensure the rate is consistent with subdivision (a) of Section 10123.137.
(3) If a health insurer delegates responsibility for the performance of the duties described in this section to a contracted entity, including a medical group or independent practice association, then the delegated entity shall comply with this section.
(4) The obligation of a health insurer to comply with this section shall not be waived if the insurer delegates services or activities that the insurer is required to perform to its provider or another contracting entity. An insurer’s implementation of this section shall be consistent with the requirements of the Health Care Providers’ Bill of Rights, and a material change in the obligations of an insurer’s contracting network providers shall be considered a material change to the provider contract, within the meaning of subdivision (b) Section 10133.65.
(b) (1) A policy of health insurance that provides benefits through contracts with providers at alternative rates of payment shall specify that the health insurer shall provide coverage for health care services appropriately delivered through telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the health insurer is responsible for coverage for the same service through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. Coverage shall not be limited only to services delivered by select third-party corporate telehealth providers.
(2) This section does not alter the existing statutory or regulatory obligations of a health insurer to ensure that insureds have access to all covered services through an adequate network of contracted providers, as required by Sections 10133 and 10133.5 and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
(3) This section does not require a health insurer to deliver health care services through telehealth services.
(4) This section does not require a health insurer to cover telehealth services provided by an out-of-network provider, unless coverage is required under other law.
(c) A health insurer may offer a policy containing a copayment or coinsurance requirement for a health care service delivered through telehealth services, provided that the copayment or coinsurance does not exceed the copayment or coinsurance applicable if the same services were delivered through in-person diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. This subdivision does not require cost sharing for services provided through telehealth.
(d) Services provided through telehealth and covered pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to the same deductible and annual or lifetime dollar maximum as equivalent services that are not provided through telehealth.
(e) The definitions in subdivision (a) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code apply to this section.

SEC. 5.

 Section 14087.95 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

14087.95.
 (a) A county contracting with the department pursuant to this article shall be exempt from Chapter 2.2 (commencing with Section 1340) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code for purposes of carrying out the contracts.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a county contracting with the department pursuant to this article shall comply with Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code.
(2) If a county subcontracts for the provision of services pursuant to this article, as authorized under Section 14087.6, the subcontractor shall comply with Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code.

SEC. 6.

 Section 14092.4 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, immediately following Section 14092.35, to read:

14092.4.
 (a) To enroll individuals in Medi-Cal programs that permit onsite enrollment and recertification of individuals by a provider or county eligibility worker as applicable, the following shall apply:
(1) For the Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment (Family PACT), Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women, and Every Woman Counts programs, a provider may enroll or recertify an individual remotely through telehealth and other virtual communication modalities, including telephone, based on the current Medi-Cal program eligibility form or forms applicable to the specific program.
(2) For the Medi-Cal Minor Consent program, a county eligibility worker may determine eligibility for, or recertify eligibility for, an individual remotely through virtual communication modalities, including telephone.
(b) The department may develop program policies and systems to support implementation of remote eligibility determination, enrollment, and recertification, consistent with this section.
(c) Notwithstanding Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, the department may implement, interpret, or make specific this section by means of all-county letters, plan letters, plan or provider bulletins, or similar instructions, without taking regulatory action.

SEC. 7.

 Section 14132.721 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, immediately following Section 14132.72, to read:

14132.721.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, and subject to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c), health care services furnished by an enrolled clinic through telehealth shall be reimbursed by Medi-Cal on the same basis, to the same extent, and at the same payment rate as those services are reimbursed if furnished in person, consistent with this section.
(b) Consistent with the protections for health care providers set forth in the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011, including Section 14132.72, the department shall not restrict the ability of an enrolled clinic to provide and be reimbursed for services furnished through telehealth and this subdivision shall not prohibit policies that require all of the clinical elements of a service to be met as a condition of reimbursement. Prohibited restrictions include all of the following:
(1) Requirements for face-to-face contact between an enrolled clinic provider and a patient.
(2) Requirements for a patient’s or provider’s physical presence at the enrolled clinic or any other location.
(3) Requirements for prior in-person contacts between the enrolled clinic and a patient.
(4) Requirements for documentation of a barrier to an in-person visit or a special need for a telehealth visit.
(5) Policies, including reimbursement policies, that impose more stringent requirements on telehealth services than equivalent services furnished in person.
(6) Limitations on the means or technologies through which telehealth services are furnished. This paragraph does not prohibit policies that require compliance with applicable federal and state health information privacy and security laws.
(c) (1) Notwithstanding the in-person requirements of Section 14132.100, if an enrolled clinic is also a federally qualified health center or a rural health center, the definition of “visit” set forth in subdivision (g) of Section 14132.100 includes a telehealth encounter to the same extent it includes an in-person encounter.
(2) Health care services furnished through audio-only telehealth, including by telephone, by a federally qualified health center or a rural health clinic, other than mental health services that are excluded from the benefits provided by county mental health plans under the specialty mental health services waiver, shall be reimbursed pursuant to Section 14132.722.
(d) This section does not eliminate the obligation of a health care provider to obtain verbal or written consent from the patient before delivery of health care via telehealth or the rights of the patient, pursuant to subdivisions (b) and (c) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code.
(e) (1) The department shall require Medi-Cal managed care plans, through contract or otherwise, to adhere to the requirements of subdivision (b) of this section.
(2) Medi-Cal managed care plans shall comply with the requirements for health care service plan contracts set forth in Section 1374.14 of the Health and Safety Code and the requirements for health insurance policies set forth in Section 10123.855 of the Insurance Code. Medi-Cal managed care plans shall not be required to pay federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics the same amount for audio-only telehealth visits as equivalent in-person visits on or after January 1, 2025. This paragraph shall be applied to the extent consistent with federal Medicaid requirements that a managed care plan provide payment for services furnished by a federally qualified health center or rural health clinic that is not less than the level and amount of payment the managed care plan would make for the services if the services were furnished by a provider that is not a federally qualified health center or rural health clinic.
(f) This section does not limit reimbursement for or coverage of, or reduce access to, services provided through telehealth before the enactment of this section.
(g) Notwithstanding Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, the department may implement, interpret, and make specific this section by means of all-county letters, plan letters, plan or provider bulletins, or similar instructions, without taking regulatory action.
(h) The department shall seek any necessary federal approvals and obtain federal financial participation in implementing this section. This section shall be implemented only to the extent that any necessary federal approvals are obtained and federal financial participation is available and not otherwise jeopardized.
(i) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Enrolled clinic” means any of the following:
(A) A clinic licensed pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 1204 of the Health and Safety Code.
(B) An intermittent clinic exempt from licensure under subdivision (h) of Section 1206 of the Health and Safety Code.
(C) A hospital or nonhospital-based clinic operated by the state or any of its political subdivisions, including the University of California, or a city, county, city and county, or hospital authority.
(D) A tribal clinic exempt from licensure under subdivision (c) of Section 1206 of the Health and Safety Code, or an outpatient setting conducted, maintained, or operated by a federally recognized Indian tribe, tribal organization, or urban Indian organization, as defined in Section 1603 of Title 25 of the United States Code.
(2) “Telehealth” has the same meaning as in subdivision (a) of Section 2290.5 of the Business and Professions Code, which includes audio-only telephone communication technologies.

SEC. 8.

 Section 14132.722 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, immediately following Section 14132.721, to read:

14132.722.
 (a) (1) Except as described in paragraph (2), the department shall indefinitely continue the telehealth flexibilities in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those implemented pursuant to Section 14132.723.
(2) (A) The department shall reimburse each federally qualified health center and rural health clinic for health care services furnished through audio-only telehealth, including telephone, at the applicable prospective payment system per-visit rate, consistent with Section 14132.721, until the earlier of January 1, 2025, or the date that the federally qualified health center or rural health clinic elects to participate in an alternative payment methodology described in subdivision (c). (d).
(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), mental health services that are excluded from the benefits provided by county mental health plans under the specialty mental health services waiver, furnished through audio-only telehealth, shall continue to be reimbursed at the applicable prospective payment system per-visit rate indefinitely, except if the federally qualified health center or rural health clinic elects an alternative payment methodology that covers those services.
(b) (1) By January 2022, the department shall convene an advisory group that includes representatives from community health centers, designated public hospitals, Medi-Cal managed care plans, consumer groups, labor organizations, behavioral health providers, counties, health care districts formed pursuant to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 32000) of Division 23 of the Health and Safety Code, and other Medi-Cal providers. The department shall utilize any potential federal funding or other nonstate general funding that may be available to support the implementation of this subdivision.
(2) The advisory group shall provide input to the department on the development of a revised Medi-Cal telehealth policy that promotes all of the following principles:
(A) Telehealth shall be used as a means to promote timely and patient-centered access to health care.
(B) Patients, in conjunction with their providers, shall be offered their choice of service delivery mode. Patients shall retain the right to receive health care in person.
(C) Confidentiality and security of patient information shall be protected.
(D) Usual standard of care requirements shall apply to services provided via telehealth, including quality, safety, and clinical effectiveness.
(E) The department shall consider disparities in the utilization of, and access to, telehealth, and shall support patients and providers in increasing access to the technologies needed to use telehealth.
(F) When the care provided during a telehealth visit is commensurate with what would have been provided in person, payment shall also be commensurate.
(c) (1) By July 2024, the department shall complete an evaluation to assess the benefits of telehealth in Medi-Cal. The evaluation shall analyze improved access for patients, changes in health quality outcomes and utilization, and best practices for the right mix of in-person visits and telehealth. The department shall utilize any potential federal funding or other nonstate general funding that may be available to support the implementation of this subdivision.
(2) The department shall provide data and information to the evaluator, as appropriate, and report its findings and recommendations on the evaluation to the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature no later than October 31, 2024.
(d) (1) The department, in consultation with affected stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems and the California Primary Care Association, shall develop one or more federally permissible alternative payment models, consistent with Section 1396a(bb)(6) of Title 42 of the United States Code, that federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics may elect to participate in.
(2) (A) The alternative payment models shall be designed to enable the continued provision of high-quality health care, while furthering the goals of the Medi-Cal program to improve access and equity, and incentivize and support clinic infrastructure improvements.
(B) To the extent that an alternative payment model includes a separate per-visit payment rate for audio-only telehealth visits, that payment rate shall be less than the rate the federally qualified health center or rural health clinic receives for an in-person visit. This subparagraph shall not apply with respect to mental health services furnished through audio-only telehealth that are excluded from the benefits provided by county mental health plans under the specialty mental health services waiver.
(3) The department shall submit and seek federal approval of the state plan amendment necessary for the implementation of this subdivision, to be effective no later than January 1, 2025. This section shall be implemented only to the extent that any necessary federal approvals are obtained and federal financial participation is available and not otherwise jeopardized.