Telehealth in Minnesota

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Live telehealth demonstration … by CiscoANZ is licensed through CC BY 2.0

By: Dr. Amy Marschall, PsyD

Since March 2020, telehealth has become standard as a way to offer mental health support while keeping people as physically safe as possible. Last year, I wrote about seeking telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although not a perfect fit for everyone, telehealth offers therapy from the safety and convenience of your home. People with limited or no access to transportation, those living in rural areas, those without childcare options, and those who simply prefer video sessions can get the treatment they need.

Prior to the COVID-19 state of emergency, though, telehealth was not an accessible option for many. Insurance typically refused to cover telehealth sessions, and those that did often required that the client travel to an approved originating site rather than be seen from home. Over the last year, researchers have used the explosion of telehealth services to definitively demonstrate telehealth’s effectiveness for many populations.

Despite this, recent months have seen changes in coverage and accessibility with telehealth. What does this mean for Minnesotans?

COVID-19 Emergency Coverage

Minnesota has been following the federal recommendations for COVID-19 emergency telehealth coverage since March 2020, including requiring that insurers cover telehealth sessions at the same rate as in-person appointments. At the time this article is written, clients’ homes are still considered an appropriate originating site for telehealth appointments.

This means that your insurance company should continue to cover your telehealth sessions at this time, and you would have the same out-of-pocket expense as if you had come to the office in person. It also means that your insurance will not require you to travel to an approved originating site.

Currently, Minnesota’s emergency telehealth coverage is tied to the federal state of emergency. Coverage is ongoing, as the pandemic is ongoing. States that have made changes to these policies have given a minimum of 30 days notice, and providers have a responsibility to be attentive to these regulations. As changes occur, providers will give their clients as much notice as possible about how this might impact their treatment and options for services.

Can My Therapist Offer Telehealth Services?

Although telehealth is an effective method to deliver therapy services for most populations, therapists have to make sure we are trained to administer therapy over telehealth effectively. This is noted in legal and ethical codes and means that, if I am going to offer telehealth, I need to make sure I am doing so effectively.

The state of Minnesota requires that clinicians submit a statement indicating that they are qualified to provide telehealth services. This is something that clients do not need to do, and the therapist has the responsibility to take this step prior to providing telehealth services.

Provider Reciprocity

Since before the pandemic began, licensure requirements for mental health professionals have been based on the client’s physical location at the time of service. This means, as a therapist, I must be licensed where my client is when they check in for a telehealth session.

Previously, Minnesota had allowed out-of-state providers to offer telehealth services to Minnesota residents due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. This has been important for those living near boarders who had received in-person services in another state but now needed to be seen from home for safety reasons. However, this reciprocity is no longer in effect.

This means that providers in South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin now need their clients to either come in person to the office or use an approved originating site across the border based on that state’s guidelines.

South Dakota, for example, does not currently have a requirement for originating sites. In theory, a client could drive across the border and be seen from their car as long as they are physically safe, have privacy, and confirm their location at the start of the session.

If your provider is a psychologist, though, they might still have the ability to see you, as Minnesota enacted PsyPact legislation on May 25, 2021. PsyPact is “an interstate compact designed to facilitate the practice of telepsychology … across state boundaries.”

This means that psychologists licensed in a state with PsyPact legislation can become licensed with PsyPact and are allowed to offer telehealth services in all PsyPact states. As of August 2021, 22 states have effective PsyPact legislation, two states have passed legislation that has not yet gone into effect, and more states have pending legislation.

So, if a psychologist is licensed in Illinois, Ohio, et cetera, and credentialed with PsyPact, they can see clients in Minnesota. PsyPact is permanent legislation, so this is something that will remain in effect even post-pandemic. This means, if someone needs a psychologist with specialized training, they would potentially have the option to see that provider without having to travel to another state.

Finding a Provider

Mental health needs are at an all-time high. We are stressed out, and the future is uncertain. There is no minimum threshold of distress to get help, so if you are wondering if it is the right time to seek therapy services, it probably is.

If you are uninsured, Walk-In Counseling Center continues to offer telehealth services in Minnesota, and Open Path Collective offers a national therapist directory to help individuals find low-cost therapy services.

If you have insurance, you can reach out to your insurance company to see which Minnesota providers are paneled with your plan. You can ask questions about which services are covered and whether you have to meet a deductible or will have a copay for each visit.

With laws and regulations changing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to understand your options for therapy services. Telehealth offers sessions in a way that keeps clients physically safe while still providing access to quality care.

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