Gov. Enacts Broader Telemedicine Provisions

 

 

NEWARK – Gov. Jack Markell today signed into law a bipartisan bill authored by Rep. Bryon Short that will expand the use and availability of telemedicine services across Delaware, which is expected to result in better care and outcomes for patients who can be evaluated and treated remotely by their doctors and nurses.

House Bill 69, co-sponsored by Sen. Bethany Hall Long, adds a formal definition of telemedicine and related means of health care delivery to the state’s insurance statute, allowing providers, institutions and insurers to fully implement and promote remote treatment services. The new law, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate, also establishes reimbursement parity among telemedicine services and in-person treatment.

“We had a great group of health policy folks, patient advocates and medical professionals helping to put the pieces together, and I want to thank everyone who had a hand in this,” said Rep. Short, D-Brandywine Hundred. “Telemedicine really is the future of health care delivery. It helps control costs, it stretches limited resources further, and above all, it makes care more accessible to patients who have a harder time using normal health care services. Now, no matter where you live in Delaware, you have the opportunity to get the care you need from the best providers out there.”

Telemedicine allows patients with mobility issues, rural residents and people who aren’t able to travel long distances for specialized care to see their doctors and receive treatment via telephone, internet or videoconferencing, even in their homes. House Bill 69 was developed in conjunction with the state Department of Health and Social Services, the Delaware Medical Society, the Delaware Healthcare Association, patient groups such as the Parkinson’s Action Network.

“The testimony was really riveting in Legislative Hall and we want to thank all the advocates,” said Sen. Hall Long, D-Middletown. “At the end of the day, this is about improving outcomes and health care quality.”

Though telemedicine is not new to the health care system, its use in Delaware is extremely limited under current rules governing insurance coverage. Last year, the American Telemedicine Association gave Delaware an “F” for telemedicine use under private insurance coverage. Recent changes to Medicare have opened the door for greater telemedicine use in Delaware. Under prior policy definitions, Delaware Medicare recipients were not eligible for telemedicine coverage.