It's been a while since our last blog post, so welcome back to Functional Lawyer, where we often break down the complex world of telemedicine regulations. In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, 2024 is poised to be the Super Bowl of telemedicine regulation, with legislative sessions in full swing across states. In this blog post, we'll delve into recent developments and what they mean for the future of telemedicine. Join with me, Scott Rattigan, attorney and founder of Functional Lawyer, and I'll be your guide through this crucial period.
Why are industry insiders dubbing 2024 the Super Bowl of telemedicine regulation? The term gained traction after a December 2023 meeting between bipartisan senators, members of the House of Representatives, and the American Telemedicine Association. Advocates for telemedicine anticipate significant regulatory changes, making 2024 a pivotal year for the industry.
The narrative begins in October 2023 when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) extended flexibilities introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of 2024. These flexibilities temporarily eliminated the in-person requirement for prescribing controlled substances, which had been in place since 2009. Originally scheduled to end in April, the extension reflects the ongoing debates and concerns raised by various industry stakeholders.
Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the in-person requirement for prescribing controlled substances was waived. However, persistent challenges and concerns led to a series of extensions, with the latest one pushing the deadline to the end of 2024. Industry stakeholders, including hospitals, advocacy groups, physicians, and legislators, voiced their concerns, prompting a closer examination of the existing rules.
The Reinhart Act of 2008 initially introduced the in-person requirement to curb the misuse of controlled substances. Despite the act including a carve-out provision for legitimate practitioners using telehealth, the DEA never implemented it, causing uproar in 2023. As we approach December 2024, the industry awaits a decision on whether the DEA will enforce new rules or if Congress will intervene.
The anticipation for the Super Bowl of telemedicine regulation rests on the hope for clarity regarding the in-person requirement by the end of 2024. While some members of Congress and the Senate express support, staffers temper optimism due to the current political climate and the looming election year. The DEA, as an executive branch agency, might have the flexibility to act independently.
With 35 telemedicine-related bills passed across the country in the previous year, 2024 promises to bring further legislative changes. These bills, expanding telemedicine access, will either take effect or are set to do so in January 2024. Functional Lawyer will stay on top of these developments, providing detailed insights into each legislative change and monitoring the 2024 legislative season.
As we gear up for the Super Bowl of Telemedicine Regulation, Functional Lawyer is committed to keeping you informed and prepared. The ever-changing landscape of telemedicine demands vigilance, and we will provide the guidance you need to practice telemedicine safely and legally across states. Stick with us for more updates and in-depth analysis throughout 2024 – the year that could redefine telemedicine as we know it.
In the meantime, you can order my helpful book, The Practice of Telemedicine, a guide to all-things telemedicine in terms of safely expanding your practice.