Testimony on HB 5450: An Act Concerning Telehealth

Insurance & Real Estate Committee

March 18, 2022

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

 On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing nearly 2,400 members we oppose Section 5 (3) of HB 5450. We are in support of Sections 1-4, especially the new language of sections 2 & 3 regarding applying the telehealth law to Connecticut residents temporarily residing out-of-state.

Section 5 (3), lines 1033-1038 states “each mental health care provider who practices in multiple states and provides telehealth shall: (A) Have a physical presence in the state; (B) charge rates pursuant to Connecticut law; and (C) regularly see patients in the state.” This is a huge step backwards for consumers benefiting from mental health care through telehealth. Frankly, we are baffled as to why this language is being proposed at a time when there is a crisis in mental health and a shortage of mental health providers to meet the huge demand for care. This language will only make the shortage of available providers even more acute.

Section 5 (3) restricts the availability of mental health providers who by state statute must hold a CT license to treat consumers in Connecticut. It runs counter to the growing movement of reciprocity between states and current legislation to expand reciprocity in CT. We see no reason that a mental health provider who holds a CT license in good standing must also have a physical presence in CT to practice telehealth. Section 5 (3) is the antithesis of telehealth.

Besides being counterproductive, Section 5 (3) lacks definition of having a physical presence in the state and does not spell out what would constitute “regularly see patients in the state”. The vagueness of the language is as problematic as is the entire concept, and should be opposed.

It also strikes us that Section 5 (3) may be a restraint of trade and if passed faces legal challenge. Plus, it is discriminatory and in violation of mental health parity by only applying to mental health care while not setting the same restrictions on physical health care through telehealth.

NASW/CT urges that Section 5 of HB 5450 be deleted. Sections 1-4 deserves the support of the Insurance Committee.

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