AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Florida Attempting To Become 20th State To Require Private Insurers To Cover Telehealth Services

State Senator Arthenia Joyner is sponsoring a bill that would make Florida the 20th state to require private insurers to cover telehealth services, starting in 2015.  The bill would require reimbursement for remote consultations, on a basis equivalent to in-person consultations with physicians, with allowable co-pays and deductibles. The telemedicine services and coverage include multi-payer coverage and reimbursement, for stroke diagnosis, high-risk pregnancies, premature births, mental health services, and emergency services.  With current limited public payer coverage of telehealth services, the technology has not been widely used in Florida.

Florida’s 3.5 million seniors could benefit from expanded telemedicine but given the recent restructuring of Medicare designated rural areas few of Florida’s seniors now qualify for Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services as a result of new data which now includes them in federally-designated metropolitan statistical areas, making them ineligible for Medicare telehealth reimbursement. It appears to be another example of the nation’s leading payer of healthcare shooting the patient in the preverbal foot based more upon the patient’s location rather than on the subscribers medical service needs and further denying patients expanded healthcare access and the behemoth program the cost benefits of new technology.

As technology continues to evolve ahead of the law, at least the state of Florida is moving to join other enlightened state legislatures to craft a forward-looking health reimbursement policy for emerging technologies such as telehealth, telemedicine and mobile health.

Telemedicine services, as Joyner’s bill defines it, includes “synchronous video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, asynchronous health images, or other health  transmissions supported by mobile devices, such as mHealth, or other telecommunications technology used for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of medical data, or exchange of medical education information by means of audio,  video, or data communications.”  A definition certainly adequate enough to match the new technologies forward momentum and an example of the kind of vision that Congress needs to adopt if they are to seriously get with the technology program anytime soon.

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