Progress Out West

July 10, 2013 by InTouch Health

In the drive to pass telemedicine parity legislation, 19 states are on board, 9 are edging closer, and 22 are hibernating.

Arizona and Montana are the two latest states to pass telemedicine parity laws – a wake-up call to other western states that have yet to even introduce draft legislation.

Throughout the RockyMountain region and upper Midwest, legislators are dragging their feet on crafting bills that would require private insurers to cover telemedicine-provided healthcare services that are comparable to in-person care. We’re talking about states with vast acreage and small populations: Wyoming, Idaho, North and South Dakota, even Alaska, for crying out loud. It’s ironic that the states with the most to gain from telemedicine are so slow to jump on the bandwagon.

Of the two new adopters, Montana’s legislation is the more comprehensive. Under the new statute, telemedicine services are reimbursable not just at hospitals but at hospices, long-term care facilities, and mental health centers. The coverage extends far beyond MDs and nurses to include physician assistants, pharmacists, and many other categories of caregivers.

The Arizona law is much more limited, providing telemedicine reimbursement only for rural areas – and only for a few services like stroke, cardiology, trauma and burns.

While other western states dawdle, there’s a lot of progress being made in Dixie and the mid-Atlantic states. Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida are moving closer to passing telemedicine parity laws – and New York and Pennsylvania are leading a push that could turn the entire Northeast into a telemedicine-friendly zone.

In the remaining states that are late to the party, legislators should pick up the phone and call Montana Senator Ed Buttrey. His bill received broad bipartisan support and passed easily. That law could be the blueprint for similar legislation in the 22 holdout states.

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