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Hawaii Governor Signs Bill to Expand Coverage for Telehealth Services

July 11, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) has signed a bill into law that expands the coverage for telemedicine services in the state.

Senate Bill 2395, Relating to Telehealth, requires the state’s Medicaid managed care and fee-for-service programs to cover services provided through telehealth, as of Jan. 1, 2017. The law states that these programs specifically “shall not deny coverage for any service provided through telehealth that would be covered if the service were provided through in-person consultation between a patient and a healthcare provider.”

The bill also: specifies medical professional liability insurance policy requirements with regard to telehealth coverage; clarifies that reimbursement for services provided through telehealth shall be equivalent to reimbursement for the same services provided via face-to-face contact between a healthcare provider and a patient; requires written disclosure of coverages and benefits associated with telehealth services; requires that telehealth encompasses store and forward technologies, remote monitoring, live consultation, and mobile health; ensures telehealth is covered when originating in a patient's home and other non-medical environments; and clarifies requirements for physicians and out-of-state physicians to establish a physician-patient relationship via telehealth.

Gov. Ige said the bill is “dear to his heart” and his long-running efforts to relieve Hawaii’s physician shortage, which is especially severe on the state’s neighbor islands, according to a statement. Senator Roz Baker (D-Maui), Senate Health Chair, (a bill sponsor) said the new law builds upon the work of a conference last January organized by the Pacific Basin Telehealth Research Center (PBTRC).

PBTRC Co-Director Christina Higa said telehealth is critical for the island state, noting “Telehealth helps to increase access to health services, improve quality of care, and reduce cost. It is wonderful that the legislature and governor have advanced telehealth through this enabling law that lifts many of the long-standing barriers and provides opportunities for win-win situations for patients, providers, and our communities.”

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