Tennessee Amends Legislation to Make Schools “Qualified Sites” that can Receive Medicaid Reimbursement for Telepractice

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Amended legislation opens the door for schools to use online therapy services like those provided by PresenceLearning

PresenceLearning

We applaud the Tennessee General Assembly for amending the legislative verbiage because now more schools and districts have access to valuable funds to help them consistently serve their students with special needs.

Effective April 17, 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Senate Bill 195 to allow elementary and secondary schools to collect Medicaid reimbursement funds for telepractice services. This applies to online speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral and mental health services like those provided by PresenceLearning, the leading telehealth network of live, online special education related service providers.

“Telepractice makes it possible for districts, regardless of their onsite therapist situation, to provide students with consistent, high-quality therapy services,” said Clay Whitehead, co-Founder and co-CEO of PresenceLearning. “We applaud the Tennessee General Assembly for amending the legislative verbiage because now more schools and districts have access to valuable funds to help them consistently serve their students with special needs.”

Like many states, Tennessee is feeling the impact of a nationwide shortage of qualified clinicians, as well as challenges unique to the state, including long commutes to hard-to-reach schools and difficulty attracting professionals to certain areas. Tennessee began providing Medicaid reimbursement for the online delivery of speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral and mental health services in 2014, however, only those sites deemed appropriate by Managed Care Organizations and School Based Health Clinics were ensured.

Even though they are required by federal law to provide related services, schools or “non-clinics” were not considered a “qualified site” under the legislation and could not collect reimbursement funds. This left districts that chose to implement telepractice services to help avoid lapses in student’s therapy at an economic disadvantage even if it was the only practical option for deploying services to students. The amended legislation added elementary and secondary schools to the list of appropriate originating sites so they can now collect Medicaid reimbursement funds for telepractice services.    

This comes two years after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a major clarification of federal policy regarding telepractice reimbursement. They declared states are no longer required to submit a separate Service Provider Agreement (SPA) for coverage of telepractice services if they reimburse for the services the same way they reimburse for face-to-face services. Now, 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, have declared LEAs may submit claims for reimbursement for live online speech-language therapy services. Many of these states, like Tennessee, have included the full range of IEP-related services delivered via telemedicine in their Medicaid reimbursement policy clarifications.

About PresenceLearning
PresenceLearning (http://www.presencelearning.com) is the leading telehealth network of providers of clinical services and assessments to educational organizations. The PresenceLearning care network has provided over one million sessions of live, online speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, diagnostic services and assessments, and early childhood services for children with special needs.

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Kati Elliott
KEH Communications
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