Telemedicine Expansion Bill Advances

DOVER – Legislation from Rep. Bryon Short that would expand the use and availability of telemedicine services across Delaware cleared a House committee today and is ready for a vote before the full chamber.

House Bill 69 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. Co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, this measure would establish reimbursement parity among telemedicine services and in-person treatment. The bill was unanimously approved by the House Economic Development, Banking and Insurance Committee.

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 and others.

“This has been a long-term effort involving a lot of collaboration,” said Rep. Short, D-Brandywine Hundred. “Above all, telemedicine provides access to care, which we know can be a huge barrier for many Delawareans. If a patient in Seaford needs to consult with a specialist in Wilmington, Philadelphia or even New York, the distance between the two points shouldn’t hamper that person’s ability to get treatment.”

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.