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Telehealth Legislation Heats Up Nationwide

By Ryan Mcaskill

A number of states are in the process of pushing new legislation that would increase the use of telehealth services.

The political landscape is ripe with telehealth legislation. As the technology matures and the benefits become clearer, states need to adjust their oversight and reimbursement to ensure they are maximizing the potential of the technology. Here is a round-up of some of the most recent developments.

Idaho endorses telehealth bill

A 31-3 vote in the Idaho Senate passed a bill that outlined acceptable telemedicine practices. The legislation allows the Idaho licensing board to be in charge of the rules and oversight on the services that can be accessed via telehealth. The bill increases access to healthcare, especially in rural areas.

The three votes against the bill came from democratic senators. They opposed some language that would ban doctors from using telehealth for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. This is a topic that has been heavily debated in other parts of the country.

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

Florida bill starts house movement

The conversation over a new telehealth bill in Florida has ended as it began moving forward in the house last week. If passed, it would increases the use of telehealth service and reimbursement in the state. It is backed by numerous lobbyist groups that include physicians, insurance and consumers.

According to Rep. Travis Cummings, (R-Orange Park), the house and senate were unable to come to an agreement over a similar telehealth bill  last year. The sticking points included standards of care and state licensing. This year, negotiations have been continuous to achieve a compromise.

“Last year we made a good run at it and kind of ran out of time,” Cummings said.

Missouri pushing telehealth bills

Missouri House Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) introduced Bill 319 earlier this month. It aims to change Medicaid reimbursement regulations surrounding telemedicine services. According to The Missourian, this move will expand access to care for those in rural areas that live long distances from specialists.

"There's a way for Medicaid to save money and get better results for recipients by allowing remote access to medical practice from their homes," Barnes said.

Currently, reimbursement for telehealth services occurs only when rendered from an approved “originating site” and in the presence of an eligible healthcare provider. The bill would add schools and MO HealthNet recipients to the list of approved sites as well as social workers and providers in rural health clinics to the list of approved administrators.

A similar bill has also been proposed by Rep. Kip Kendrick, (D-Columbia), though it focuses on expanded telehealth services in schools.

"What happens right now is many people go without care," Kendrick said. "If they are to receive care, they have to find transportation or Medicaid helps arrange transportation to a specialist in an urban area."

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