Florida Medical Association Wins First Battle in Telemedicine War

A Florida Senate committee Wednesday approved a version of a bill that would expand state residents' access to telemedicine, but limit telemedicine providers to in-state physicians.

The Senate bill (SPB 7028) is stricter than the House's version (HB 751) of what is generally known as the Florida Telemedicine Act in several regulatory matters. Telehealth must be provided by physicians, and those physicians must hold Florida licenses in order to render telemedicine services to the state's residents. The Senate version of the bill also contains a requirement that telemedicine services be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.

In contrast, the House bill just requires out-of-state physicians to register with the state and pay a $75 fee to be able to practice telemedicine from outside the state. The bill also does not clarify reimbursement structures. The lack of these regulations in the House bill had drawn the ire of the Florida Medical Association, which sees the House version as potentially compromising patient safety in addition to being unfair to physicians.

"This is not commerce; we're not selling widgets," said FMA contract lobbyist David Custin, in a WUSF report. "This is healthcare. It's different, okay? There are reasons there are protections in statute."

While the FMA applauds the Senate committee's approval of SPB 7028, the organization recognizes the bill will likely undergo more change as the two versions are reconciled, and will continue to lobby for the regulations it sees as necessary.

What is not being debated is the value of telemedicine to the state and its residents. Both the FMA and state congressional representatives have cited telemedicine's ability to improve access to care while reducing healthcare costs.

Additionally, Florida TaxWatch recently released a report that found increasing the use of telemedicine in Florida to provide the appropriate level of care to more patients could save Floridians more than $1 billion annually.

More Articles on Telemedicine:

WellPoint's Telemedicine Service Saves Patients $71 per Visit
American Telemedicine Association Urges Feds to Lift Telemedicine Restrictions
Blue Shield of California, Adventist Health Announce Telehealth Initiative

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