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Florida bill will permit doctors to meet with patients in videoconferences
It’s about time, Florida.
Even though 46 other states’ Medicaid programs are required to reimburse for doctor visits conducted by videoconference, the Sunshine State has yet to pass such a bill. The state’s legislature, though, has a chance to change that with a new bill just introduced by two state senators, Tampa Democrat Arthenia Joyner, and Jacksonville Republican Aaron Bean. The new bill, if it passes, will allow providers to meet with their patients in videoconferences.
Although more than 23 states require private insurers to reimburse telehealth services at the same rates as face-to-face visits, Senators Joyner and Bean chose to eliminate equal payment from the new bill, since that was the sticking point the last time a similar bill was introduced. Insurance companies lobbied against previous bills that required equal payment.
Joyner explained why. “[Insurers] may be providing the equipment necessary to conduct the telemedicine visits,” she said. Because the companies had to outlay a hefty sum to purchase the technology needed to provide telehealth visits, they believed that they should be able to reimburse for video visits on a different scale.
Other states are also taking similar bills under consideration. Colorado, Idaho and Minnesota are debating bills that would require insurers to reimburse for several telehealth services, including videoconference visits. Texas’ medical board is weighing a decision to change a rule that disallows physicians from writing prescriptions for patients based on a videoconference or phone consult, provided they have not seen the patient in a face-to-face meeting.
In Florida, however, Sen. Joyner is excited about the possibility that the bill may pass. She says,
“It has the ability to connect Floridians to quality medical care they may otherwise [not] be able to reach…” Indeed it should, since the bill defines that the standard of care for videoconference visits must be the same as that provided through in-person visits. Providers must also use identical documentation for both in-person and videoconference visits.
Providers may not prescribe controlled substances to control pain not caused by a malignancy based on a video visit. Also, they are prohibited from prescribing optical devices during a teleconference. All visits must be conducted on video. Audio conferences, faxes, and e-mail consultations are also prohibited. Florida physicians who are responsible for a given patient within the state, too, may not consult with colleagues outside of the state via teleconference.
The bill’s backers include the Florida Hospital Group, the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The bill is now under review by committee. If it passes, it will become effective on July 1, 2015.
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