The Florida Senate is currently considering a bill by the Committee on Health Policy that would create licensure and registration requirements for remote providers as well as provide health insurer and health plan reimbursement requirements for telemedicine, including those services provided under the Medicaid program. The bill is formally titled SPB 7028 and is cited as the Florida Telemedicine Act.
With a telemedicine parity law enacted in Tennessee earlier this year and twelve states1 with telehealth bills on the table, it is clear that the need for telemedicine legislation is finally getting the attention it deserves.
However, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of letting the proposed bill pass. The Florida Medical Association (FMA) is opposed to the bill, saying that allowing physicians licensed in other states to practice via telemedicine in Florida would violate standards of care like consumer privacy and fraud protection.
These concerns are understandable, though unwarranted. With the rapid development of new telemedicine technology it is now possible to ensure that delivering care over the internet is effective and safe.
One lobbyist opposed to the bill even likened the Telemedicine Act to going back to the Wild West, “where anyone with a bottle of whiskey, a pocket knife and Skype can practice medicine.” 3
Unfortunately, it’s confusing assertions like the above that are putting undo stress on the likelihood of the bill getting passed. Reputable telemedicine organizations are often unfairly lumped in with a myriad of shady online medical services. The notion that any hospital or medical facility would expose their consumers to an unregulated telemedicine program with unaccountable physicians is a strange one indeed.
Many organizations that offer telemedicine offer HIPPA compliant platforms, and with the licensing and credentialing procedures for out-of-state providers virtually identical to those who live in state, the chance for fraud is extremely low.
With a shortage of physicians plaguing the nation, telemedicine parity laws can be the difference between state residents waiting hours to see a physician or waiting weeks. For consumers who have limited access to transportation or finances, it can be the difference between seeing a physician and not.
The bill was first submitted for consideration in January, 2014 but was continually postponed throughout February. On March 6, 2014 the bill was formally submitted by the Committee on Health Policy.
This piece of legislation is an important one for Florida. In-state telemedicine programs have been highly successful bringing access to consumers in rural areas.3
If you live in Florida and are interested in helping to promote this bill you can find the senator for your county here.
In addition to the Senate bill, there is a companion bill that was approved and goes into effect on July 1, 2014. That bill, however, only requires remote providers to be registered in Florida, not to have a Florida medical license. “This is an obvious innovation that our citizens really need,” Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said before the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee voted 10-3 to approve the measure (HB 751).4
Daniayla Stein lives in the DC area as a Digital Communications professional with InSight Telepsychiatry, the national leading telepsychiatry service provider. Daniayla is passionate about helping people help themselves through information and advocacy and frequently writes on behavioral health issues and healthcare policy. She graduated from Beloit College in 2012 with a degree in Anthropology and Creative Writing.
Follow Daniayla on twitter here: @DaniaylaS