Testimonial on S.B. 1022: An Act Concerning Telehealth

Insurance & Real Estate & Public Health Committees

March 15, 2021

Submitted By: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter we urge the passage of S.B. 1022: AAC Telehealth before the Insurance and Public Health Committees. Telehealth has become a primary means of delivering health care in the Covid-19 pandemic and it is critically important that current telehealth rules remain in place, beyond the Governor’s executive order, not just temporarily, but permanently.

Executive orders and the current temporary statute have made it possible for health care providers to serve consumers in a way that is safe for both the consumer and the provider. In the field of behavioral health clinical social workers have been able to reach persons who had previously been seen in an office as well as expanding care to consumers who were previously unable to attain therapy due to obstacles such as lack of transportation, employment hours, residing in facilities and family obligations.  Many clinical social workers report that with patient consent they are able to meet other family members and caregivers in the home who the patient would not have brought with them to an office visit, making for a fuller understanding of presenting issues. Accessibility to care has undeniably been increased through the expansion of telehealth services, including improvement in health equity.  This means consumers getting an appropriate level of care when needed before a crisis occurs that creates far greater costs both personally and financially.

AAC Telehealth continues important provisions that have made telehealth successful. First of all, the bill will continue the use of audio only when a video option is not available, or internet connections are lost. This particularly benefits older adults and disabled persons residing in long-term care facilities where video is not feasible. It also has greatly aided those without video capable equipment, which is most prevalent among persons living in poverty. Additionally, audio only allows for added privacy for those who so choose this option. It is crucially important to continue the audio only option in both fully insured health plans and Medicaid.

Secondly, the bill continues the payment structure of equal rates for treatment, be it in-person or through telehealth. This is completely appropriate as rates of pay should be based on the treatment not the location where the treatment takes place. Rate equity also means that there will be an ample number of providers to provide care to those with health insurance. If insurers pay lower rates for telehealth it will reduce the number of providers willing to accept those insurers and in turn reduce consumers choice of providers. In fact, providers are now in this pandemic facing greater costs to practice. Most of our clinical social workers in private practice are paying for offices they cannot use, have the costs of telehealth platforms and additional costs in creating home offices.

AAC Telehealth also makes clear that insurers cannot accept only specific platforms for delivery of care. This avoids the duplication of platforms used by providers and eliminates unnecessary costs for multiple platforms. All HIPAA compliant platforms must be accepted by insurers as stated in S.B. 1022.

AAC Telehealth importantly recognizes that care can be effectively delivered from various locations thus prohibits insurers from placing specific physical location requirements for approval of provider status.

We are in the midst of a pandemic, with no one knowing for sure when this pandemic will fully subside. What we do know is that the impact of the pandemic will have far reaching, long-term effects. Following the 2001 World Trade Towers attack, the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, behavioral health needs dramatically increased and remained so for many years after, and these disasters did not come close to the expansive reach of Covid-19. Behavioral health experts expect a tsunami of behavioral health needs coming out of the pandemic that can only be best met by the combination of in-person and telehealth care.

We recommend that S.B. 1022 have substitute language to make it apply to both in-network and out-of-network providers. The advantages that telehealth offers to consumers and the valuable provisions of this bill should apply to all consumers, regardless of the consumer’s choice of provider.

Consumers and providers will benefit from a stable health delivery system that does not create uncertainty as to whether telehealth services will continue. Our chapter staff has heard from numerous members who report client concerns about telehealth’s current provisions not being continued. We also hear from clinical social workers who fear not being able to continue to safely treat their clients or question if they can take on new clients in this time of looming concerns to whether current telehealth rules will continue.

Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way health care is delivered. Post-pandemic we should not expect consumers to seek a return to pre-pandemic models of care. Consumers demand for telehealth and the undeniable benefits of the option of telehealth requires Connecticut to make the current telehealth provisions permanent.

NASW/CT urges the Insurance and Public Health Committees to unanimously support S.B. 1022 and for the General Assembly to speedily pass the bill prior to the April 19th deadline of the Governor’s telehealth executive order.


  1. Allison Sova says

    Why are we still debating this, telehealth should continue. I’m being mandated to see my therapist and group therapy in person as of May 20, yet my United healthcare insurance provides telehealth/telemedicine.
    The response I received is that the state is not approving those on Medicare or Medicaid. Ability to have my appointments via zoom have. Been a life saver for me.

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