More and more states introducing bills to break barriers to telehealth

February 4, 2013 in Medical Technology

Already this year, some 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, have introduced legislation that would further expand the usage and reimbursement of telemedicine services. 

The Maryland state legislature last week gave the green light to legislation that would require the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide reimbursement for telemedicine services. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore), is scheduled for a hearing February 20. 


[See also: Georgia to expand telemedicine statewide.]


Nebraska legislators also introduced a bill Jan. 23 that would require health insurers to cover telemedicine behavioral health treatment for children in public schools. According to the bill, co-sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, it will “reduce the time that a child spends out of the classroom, address the shared community goal of keeping children healthy and in school, provide access to medical and behavioral health professionals to rural or underserved areas that may not otherwise have access to such medical professionals.”


Similarly, legislators in Arizona, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington have all introduced legislation that would require health insurers to cover and reimburse for telemedicine services.


[See also: Telemedicine for reproductive health.]


According to data from The American Telemedicine Association (ATA), some 200 telemedicine networks have been established nationwide, with more than 50 percent of U.S. hospitals using at least  one telemedicine service. In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration alone delivered more than 300,000 remote consultations with patients. 


The five most recent pieces legislation by state, according to ATA data, include:  


SB 1353 introduced by Senators Gail Griffin (R-14), David Bradley (D-10), Judy Burges (R-22), Adam Driggs (R-28), Jack Jackson (D-7), Kelli Ward (R-5), Sonny Borrelli (R-5), Al Melvin (R-11), David Gowan (R-14), David Stevens (R-14), Rick Gray (R-21), Victoria Steele (D-9); Olivia Cajero Bedford (D-3), Chester Crandell (R-6), Katie Hobbs (D-24), Linda Lopez (D-2), Rick Murphy (R-21), Bob Worsley (R-25), Kate Brophy McGee (R-28), Heather Carter (R-15), Karen Fann (R-1), Eric Meyer (D-28), and Bob Thorpe (R-6) requires health insurers in the state to cover health care services provided through telemedicine if the service would be covered were it provided through an in-person consultation. The bill defines telemedicine as “the use of audio, video, or other electronic media for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment.



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