Sunday, February 3, 2013

States Introduce Telehealth Bills

On January 23, 2013, Nebraska State Senators Amanda McGill, Brad Ashford, and Annette Dubas introduced Bill 556 in the Nebraska legislature to provide telehealth services for children through the public schools. The fact is that telehealth services are already used in Nebraska but can’t be accessed in schools.

By providing telehealth services in the schools, parents would be able to access healthcare for their children without having to jeopardize their income, salary, or employment status. In addition, using telehealth services would reduce the time that a child spends out of the classroom, and address the shared community goal of keeping children healthy and in school.

If the legislation is passed, the Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the State Department of Education would work together to promulgate rules and regulations to provide for telehealth services for children through the school system. These rules and regulations would enable school personnel, physicians and behavioral health professionals communicate with each other regarding telehealth services.

According to the proposed legislation, school personnel or other adults present when a child receives telehealth service need not have medical training except in an emergency when a school nurse, a counselor, or another person familiar with the child’s treatment plan would need to be present with the child at the school site.

Telehealth services would be reimbursed under the medical assistance program established under the Medical Assistance Act. The service however must be the most efficient and use the least expensive telehealth transmission services that could include but is not limited to secure wireless connections.

In other Nebraska legislative news, State Senator Colby Coash has filed a bill that would require health insurers to cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism in individuals under 21 as well as authorize behavioral health treatment through telehealth. Also, State Senator Peter Pirsch has filed another bill to create a Telehealth Behavioral Services Program for youths involved in juvenile justice programs.

In a recent article by the American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous titled “Public Policy for Telehealth in 2013: It’s Time for Government to Lead or Get Out of the Way” Linkous reports that since the beginning of 2013, several states have introduced additional legislation related to telemedicine and telehealth such as:

  • Connecticut’s, Senator Crisco introduced a bill to require health insurers in the state to cover healthcare services provided through telecommunications technology
  • District of Columbia Councilwoman Mary Cheh filed legislation that would require private health insurers and Medicaid to cover healthcare services via telemedicine
  • Florida’s, Representative Mia Jones introduced a bill to require health insurers to provide coverage for telemedicine services and extend Medicaid telemedicine services to home care
  • Indiana’s, State Senator Vaneta Becker has filed a bill seeking to require Medicaid to reimburse certified home health agencies, FQHCs, and rural health clinics for telehealth services
  • Mississippi’s State Senator Terry Burton introduced a bill that would require insurers to cover telemedicine services the same as an in-person visit. In addition, Representative Toby Baker introduced companion legislation that would also require health insurance plans to cover telemedicine services as if the person were being seen by the doctor in the office
  • New Mexico’s, State Representative Stephen Easley and State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino have filed bills requiring insurers to cover healthcare services provided via telemedicine
  • Oklahoma’s Representative Glen Mulready filed a bill that would repeal the informed consent requirements related to telemedicine
  • South Carolina’s, State Senators Raymond Cleary III, Bradley Hutto, and Greg Hembree have filed a bill to require individual or group health maintenance organizations to cover telemedicine services
  • Tennessee’s Senator Ophelia Ford introduced legislation that would require health insurance coverage to reimburse providers for telemedicine
  • Several State of Washington Representatives have introduced legislation that would require health plans to reimburse for telemedicine services the same as if the person was with the provider