State lawmakers continue to push for telemedicine reimbursement

A pair of Florida representatives are among several in the Sunshine State calling for an increase in the use of--and payment for--telemedicine.

Following the state's Telemedicine Public Policy Symposium at the Mayo Clinic's campus in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Reps. Cary Pigman (R-Avon Park) and Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) announced a plan to co-sponsor a bill requiring both Medicaid and private insurers to reimburse doctors who use telemedicine to treat their patients. Pigman, who also is an emergency physician, called the approach "cost-effective" and "hassle-free."

"So much of what we do in healthcare is directed toward rescue," Pigman said, according to the Florida Times-Union. "This would enable [physicians] to do more maintenance and preservation."

A similar bill was filed earlier this month by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa), which would prevent insurers from requiring face-to-face visits between doctors and patients should telemedicine be a sufficient mean for providing care. In addition, Joyner's bill calls on the state's department of health to initiate a study examining options related to the use of telemedicine for stroke diagnosis, high-risk pregnancies, premature, mental health services and emergency services.

Florida isn't the only state where telemedicine has become a hot topic. For instance, a Michigan state representative last week called for greater use of telehealth tools in a letter to the editor published in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Meanwhile, earlier this week in South Carolina, two major insurers--BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina--announced that they will pay for remote care in three specialties: high-risk pregnancies, stroke and psychiatry.

And in Oklahoma, reimbursements from the state's Universal Service Fund have soared as hospitals add telemedicine services; those costs are being passed on to consumers in the form of more expensive phone bills.

A federal telemedicine bill reintroduced in the Senate in March calls on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to expand telehealth services.

To learn more:
- read the Florida Times-Union article

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