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June 25, 2020

COVID-19 Practice Updates: Telemedicine Parity, EPCS Mandate, and More

Regulatory updates and other practice guidance, including a call to action for our members, as Washington state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telemedicine parity, other priority emergency policies extended

The Legislature extended Gov. Jay Inslee's order enforcing telemedicine payment parity, Proclamation 20-29, through July 1. The proclamation implements Senate Bill 5385, requiring payment parity from state-regulated health plans, ahead of the legislation's Jan. 1, 2021 effective date. Another temporary emergency order requiring telemedicine parity, OIC Emergency Order 20-02, was extended by the OIC until July 19. The order requires OIC-regulated fully insured health plans to pay at parity for telemedicine services and requires all state-regulated carriers to permit and reimburse for care provided over non-HIPAA compliant platforms, including video chat applications and telephones.

While the WSMA was glad to see these important orders extended, we continue to advocate for these policies to be extended further. In the case of the governor's proclamation, until the end of the year when SB 5385 takes effect; with the OIC orders, through the duration of the public health crisis.

Urge your state legislators to extend these telemedicine parity policies

You can help our efforts on these issues. Please take a moment to write your local legislators, urging them to:

  1. Extend the governor's telemedicine parity proclamation through Dec. 31, 2020.
  2. Call on the OIC to extend its emergency telemedicine order for the duration of the public health crisis.

Click here to send a message through our advocacy platform. Physicians and practices need certainty that these policies will remain in effect as the pandemic continues to play out in Washington state. Please act today.

Other emergency policies extended

Other WSMA priority proclamations and emergency orders recently extended include:

COVID-19 case reporting now requires race/ethnicity data

For physicians or facilities that order lab tests for COVID-19 and enter COVID-19 case report data into an electronic medicalrecord, test documentation must now include race and ethnicity in the data fields. For details

read this June 8 letter from Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases and deputy health officer. If you have questions, please email

Electronic prescribing mandate delayed until September 2021

Senate Bill 5380, a measure aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, was signed into law during the 2019 legislative session. Among other provisions, the new law requires electronic prescribing for controlled substances beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. At the WSMA's request, Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman delayed the EPCS mandate out of consideration for the impact on physician practices during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Practices will now be required to e-prescribe by Sept. 30, 2021. This action aligns the EPCS mandate deadline with a WSMA-requested delay for electronic health record/prescription monitoring program integration requirement. By Sept. 30, 2021, practices with 10 or more prescribers will also be required to complete EHR-PMP integration.

For practices facing barriers to both mandates, SB 5380 does allow for an economic/technical hardship or exceptional circumstance exemption. The WSMA has been working with DOH staff as they draft and finalize the details of the waiver processes. We will continue to advocate for flexibility for physicians and their practices moving forward. Should you have questions on either mandate, contact the WSMA policy department at

Chronic opioid prescribing guidance during COVID-19

The Washington State Department of Health recently released "Guidance on Chronic Pain Management Medications during the COVID-19 Pandemic." The guidance, intended for health care workers and patients with chronic pain on long-term opioid therapy, includes information on telemedicine, filling prescriptions, and medication refill schedules.

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