Louisiana Expands Access to Telemedicine, Federal Aid for Small Businesses

March 24, 2020

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has issued Emergency Rule 37, which aims to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 health emergency.

The Louisiana Department of Insurance summarized the provisions of Emergency Rule 37 as:

  • Expands access to telemedicine services so Louisiana residents can continue receiving necessary care without a visit to a hospital or clinic, including permitting telemedicine visits conducted through the patient’s phone or personal device.
  • Requires insurers to cover mental health services via telemedicine to the extent they would be covered in-person, except for treatments that are not appropriate for remote delivery.
  • Broadens telehealth availability by waiving restrictions requiring patients to only conduct telemedicine visits with providers in the insurer’s existing telemedicine network.
  • Requires insurers to evaluate their out-of-network cost sharing to ensure patients are not unreasonably charged extra cost sharing amounts under their insurance policy if in-network access becomes limited during the event.

The purpose of Emergency Rule 37 is to expand access to telemedicine services so Louisiana residents can continue receiving necessary care without a visit to a hospital or clinic, including permitting telemedicine visits conducted through the patient’s phone or personal device, the department said.

Small Businesses Access to Federal Aid Expanded

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on March 23 implemented a statewide Stay at Home order to fight the spread of COVID-19. As of that date, there were more than 800 confirmed cases in the state and more than half of the parishes had been affected. The order is set to expire on April 12.

Edwards subsequently announced that small businesses in all 64 Louisiana parishes will have access to federal Small Business Administration disaster aid in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza confirmed that Louisiana’s more than 440,000 small business are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans, which will be made available to eligible firms suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the health emergency.

Impacted small businesses may apply for up to $2 million in working capital to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 disaster. Loan terms (3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses; 2.75 percent for nonprofits) may be extended up to 30 years to keep payments affordable.

First responders and workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors’ offices and other critical infrastructure are exempt from Edward’s stay at home directive. Financial and insurance services are included in the list of businesses deemed to be essential under the stay at home order.

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