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Telemedicine Bill Gets Full Support in State Senate Committee

January 30, 2018

The Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee today unanimously approved legislation that would increase access to telemedicine services in the commonwealth.

Telemedicine is the exchange of medical information from one site to another via electronic communications in order to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Two-way video, email, smartphones, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology can be used to deliver high-quality health care through telehealth.

Senate Bill 780 (Vogel, R-Beaver), as amended by the Committee, would:

  • Define telemedicine
  • Protect patients by outlining who can provide health care services through telemedicine
  • Require health insurers to provide reimbursement for telemedicine services if they pay for the same service in person

HAP and the Pennsylvania Medical Society worked together with the bill sponsor to refine language, and both organizations strongly support the legislation. HAP president and CEO Andy Carter issued a statement saying, “HAP applauds Sen. Vogel for his effort to provide health care consumers with greater choice and flexibility in receiving the care they need. We encourage all policymakers to support the measure as it moves forward.”

In addition, 1,300 consumers, who are subscribers to HAP’s Healthy Me PA digital community, signed a petition in support of legislation to expand access to care through telemedicine services.

Senate Bill 780 is important because the health care delivery system is rapidly changing, and telemedicine technology is essential for the delivery of life-saving emergency care, a wide range of specialty services, and everyday medical consultations.

In addition, the insurance payment requirements in the bill will help bring more consistency to the reimbursement process, while avoiding government interference in rate-setting for health care services.

When someone suffers a stroke, seconds count. Having direct emergency department access to a neurologist via telemedicine not only can help a patient survive their traumatic event, but also ensure a much greater quality of life after the stroke. This can mean significantly less long-term costs due to rehabilitation and other services.

Likewise, while dermatological care is often sought for non-emergency health issues, it is not always easy for a patient to get an immediate appointment. With teledermatology, a patient can take a photograph of their skin issue, send it to a physician, and receive a diagnosis and a treatment plan in minutes.

By expanding insurance reimbursement to providers for telemedicine, Senate Bill 780 will help ensure that Pennsylvania physicians and hospitals are able to provide the right care, at the right place, at the right time for patients.

While HAP anticipates additional stakeholder meetings about the bill, hospitals will continue to press for a full Senate vote on the legislation.

For additional information, please contact Kate Slatt, HAP’s senior director, innovative payment and care delivery; Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy; or Scott Bishop, HAP’s senior vice president, legislative advocacy.

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