More and more states introducing bills to break barriers to telehealth

Seek reimbursement, expansion for teleservices
By Erin McCann
10:48 AM

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. 
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.
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.
HB 2089 introduced by Representative Glen Mulready (R-68) repeals the informed consent requirements related to telemedicine.
HB 491 introduced by Representatives Mark Cohen (D-202), Thomas Caltagirone (D-127), Tim Hennessey (R-26), Dom Costa (D-21), Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-190), Anthony DeLuca (D-32), William Kortz (D-38), Michael McGeehan (D-173), Mark Mustio (R-44), Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121), Harry Readshaw (D-36), W. Curtis Thomas (D-181), Dan Truitt (R-156), and Rosita Youngblood (D-198) requires private health insurers in the state to cover healthcare services provided through telehealth.  The bill defines telehealth as “the remote interaction between a health care professional and a patient through the use of any of the following:  a video camera transmission; a computer video transmission; an electronic health monitoring device; and another telecommunications device that delivers health information concerning a patient to a health care professional”.
SB 484 introduced by Senator Ophelia Ford (D-29) requires health insurance coverage to include reimbursement of providers for telemedicine services; requires department of correction to study costs related to telemedicine; and requires a review of other states’ Medicaid telemedicine policies and procedures. The bill defines telemedicine as “the use of interactive audio, video, or other telecommunications or electronic technology by a licensed health care provider to deliver a health care service within the scope of practice of the healthcare provider at a site other than the site at which the patient is located”. 
HB 1448 introduced by Representatives Steve Bergquist (D-11), Charles Ross (R-14), Eileen Cody (D-34), Paul Harris (R-17), Tami Green (D-28), Jay Rodne (R-5), Steve Tharinger (D-24), Norm Johnson (R-14), Matt Manweller (R-13), Chad Magendanz (R-5), and Dawn Morrell (D-25) requires health plans in the state to reimburse for telemedicine service on the same basis and at the same rate that the provider would be reimbursed for an in-person encounter; reduces the compliance requirements on hospitals when granting privileges or associations to telemedicine physicians. The bill defines telemedicine as "the delivery of health care services and means the use of interactive audio, video, or electronic media for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment."