Monday, January 4, 2021

Coronavirus Update 1-4-2021: DOL approves telemedicine visits to establish a serious health condition under the FMLA

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing health-care-provider offices or severely limiting patient access, many have turned to telehealth to remotely obtain healthcare from the safety of their homes. The question arose, however, whether these remote visits would qualify as "treatment" under the FMLA's qualifying definition of a "serious health condition," which under the FMLA's regulations requires an "in-person visit to a health care provider," and does not include "a phone call, letter, email, or text message."

While you were celebrating your December holidays, the Department of Labor issued a Field Assistance Bulletin [pdf] addressing this issue. 

Thankfully, the DOL took a common sense and practical approach to address this issue.

WHD will consider a telemedicine visit with a health care provider as an in-person visit … provided specified criteria are met. 

To be considered an "in-person" visit, the telemedicine visit must include: 

  • an examination, evaluation, or treatment by a health care provider; 
  • be permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities; and, 
  • generally, should be performed by video conference.

Communication methods that do not meet these criteria (e.g., a simple telephone call, letter, email, or text message) are insufficient, by themselves, to satisfy the regulatory requirement of an "in-person" visit.

Bravo Department of Labor. It's a rare and refreshing treat when we can use the adjectives "practical" and "common sense" to describe an opinion of a federal agency.

* Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash