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State Progress on Telemedicine Includes Medical Licensure Compact

March 3, 2015
by David Raths
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State legislatures across the country have a keen focus on telemedicine in 2015, including adding Medicaid coverage for telemedicine. Last week, the Utah Legislature passed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact drafted by the Federation of State Medical Boards to make it easier for telemedicine practitioners to offer their services across state lines.

A model Interstate Medical Licensure Compact legislation was released in September 2014. Since then, 15 states have introduced the legislation and more than 25 state medical and osteopathic boards have publicly expressed support. The Utah legislature is the first one to send a bill to the governor.

In Minnesota, legislators have introduced a telemedicine act that would do several things, according to the Minnesota Hospital Association:

• Clarify that the definition of telemedicine includes both synchronous (two-way videoconferencing) and asynchronous (sending an MRI to a radiologist to read later) settings, as well as devices worn by a patient, such as heart rate monitors.

• Require that insurance plans treat services delivered using telemedicine technology the same as services delivered face to face.

• Require insurance plans to pay the same rate for services regardless of whether delivered via telemedicine or face to face.

Twenty-two other states and the District of Columbia have enacted parity laws that require telemedicine laws to be covered in the same manner as face-to-face services.

"Passing this bill would help us use this technology to bring a broader range of key care services to vulnerable patients. For example, we could provide crucial education about managing serious diseases, such as diabetes," said Maureen Ideker, director of telemedicine for Essentia Health, in a prepared statement. "Additionally, telemedicine visits for patients living in assisted living or group homes are not covered under current policy, so they have to be taken to another site to receive telemedicine services or to a physical clinic, which can be very disruptive."

In the Oregon Legislature, Senate Bill 144 would expand the definition of telemedicine to a patient seeing a doctor or nurse via two-way video conferencing, according to a story in the Portland Business Journal. Current Oregon law only requires insurance coverage of telemedicine if it took place at a medical facility — for example, if a person at a rural hospital received a telemedicine consultation from a specialist in Portland, the report noted.

The state legislatures in Arkansas and Idaho have passed legislation to place restrictions on telemedicine and abortion services.

To keep track of all the activity at state level, the American Telemedicine Association maintains a web site tracker page