Florida moves forward on telemedicine, Texas remains in the past

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story reported that a bill passed last Friday by Florida state legislators included a provision that would allow providers not licensed in the state to offer telemedicine services after a completing an application and paying a $150 fee; that language was dropped from the House version of the bill prior to the vote. We regret the error.

The juxtaposition of the recent and ongoing actions by Florida and Texas when it comes to telemedicine show the continued struggles and promise the technology faces.

Late last week, members' of Florida's state legislature unanimously passed a bill that creates a Telehealth Advisory Council to make recommendations based on research on services provided through telemedicine, the extent to which it is used and the estimated costs and savings, according to Healthcare Law Today. The council, which will reside in the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, must deliver its recommendations in a report to the Governor and the state legislature by Dec. 1, 2018; survey and research data for the report must be finished by June 30 of that year.

Texas, however, seemingly continues to put up barriers to the use of telemedicine. In December, a judge for a second time sided with telemedicine company Teladoc in a court battle with the Texas Medical Board, which wants to require in-person visits before the use of telemedicine to prescribe medications. In addition, rules proposed in January by the Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors would require licensed professionals to practice in Texas and perform a face-to-face intake session before a telehealth counseling, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

"I joked that the next item on their agenda was to require a buggy whip for every hybrid vehicle in Texas," Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, recently told the Dallas Morning News. "That's how backward their thinking is."

"Employers want this and patients want it, too," added Jamie Dudensing, CEO of the Texas Association of Health Plans. "Consumers are ready for 21st century ideas."

The University of Texas System in February approved the use of its $48.5 million endowment to create a statewide telemedicine network, but despite that step forward, the prescription restrictions could hold the network back.

To learn more:
- read this Healthcare Law Today post
- read the Dallas News article