A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers met with reporters on Tuesday to express confidence a telemedicine bill would successfully pass the Florida Legislature this year.
Telemedicine, otherwise known as “telehealth,” helps provide remote healthcare access to patients in rural communities and underserved regions. It often involves the Internet and other telecommunications for services such as video links with physicians for consulting with patients at home.
“It’s abundantly important that we get it done and get it done right,” said House Health Care Appropriations Chairman Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican, during the morning press conference in the Capitol
While telemedicine is beginning to catch on with a handful of hospitals embracing the technology, legislators are under pressure to set guidelines in Florida law, according to Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, chairman of the Senate Health Policy Subcommittee, and Republican House Health and Human Services Chairman Jason Brodeur of Sanford.
One issue is that under current rules, doctors who use telemedicine are not paid through Florida’s Medicaid system for those services.
The Legislature can provide a degree of legal “certainty” when it comes to telemedicine, a concern of doctors, hospitals, insurers and the entire health-care industry.
In previous sessions, Florida lawmakers failed agree over telemedicine bills, and the upcoming 2015 session has several bills up for consideration.
Bean and Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, co-sponsored SB 478; Orange Park Republican Rep. Travis Cummings proposed a similar House bill (HB 545).
In Tuesday’s press conference, leaders vowed to work out any differences between the bills, particularly since regulatory guidelines are what led to stalemates over telemedicine in the past. For example, a key obstacle was whether to allow out-of-state physicians to provide telemedicine in Florida.
So far, there is some common ground in the bills. One example is requiring only health-care providers licensed in Florida to offer telemedicine in the state. Another is “scope of practice” rules preventing physicians from practicing outside their areas of specialty. In addition, Florida physicians can consult with out-of-state doctors by way of telemedicine.