Each year Senators are given the opportunity to select one bill to designate as their personal priority. This year, the bill I chose to designate is LB92, a bill to require certain health carriers to provide coverage for certain services delivered through telehealth. LB92 advanced out of committee unanimously and has no fiscal note, meaning it will not have a cost burden on the state of Nebraska.
Under this legislation, health insurance companies are required to cover any service offered through telehealth that is already covered for an in-person consultation. Currently, even though many doctors have embraced telehealth technology, some have been reluctant to utilize it because they do not know whether insurers will reimburse them. This reimbursement policy is already in place for state Medicaid, and it only makes sense that we would extend it to those covered by individual or group health insurance plans.
Initially, I was unfamiliar with exactly what telemedicine meant, but learned it is the use of advanced telecommunications and other technologies exchanged in real time via electronic communication between sites to monitor patient health status. Tools that can be utilized to deliver telemedicine include networked programs, point-to-point connections, monitoring centers, or web e-based e-health patient service sites. I like to think of it as “Facetime” with a medical professional.
Under this legislation, services provided include primary care, specialist referral services, remote patient monitoring, consumer medical and health information, consultation, diagnosis, and health education to patients.
I believe telemedicine is particularly important in assuring timely and effective delivery of health services to vulnerable populations such as individuals in rural areas, low-income individuals, and individuals with mobility impairments. Telemedicine provides the opportunity for alternative delivery of care and cost saving opportunities for plans, providers, and beneficiaries.
I truly believe that this tool, designed to serve smaller communities that have health clinics but few if any full-time doctors, is incredibly valuable to Nebraskans. As we consider the shortage of doctors and practitioners throughout the state, especially in the rural areas, it is important for us to utilize all the options in reaching our entire population with vital services. Telehealth consultations can also be significantly less expensive than an in-person doctor visit.
I believe it is time for Nebraska to expand telehealth services across the state and eliminate any doubt for doctors and patients that these services are covered by insurance. My colleagues agreed with me, and the bill was advanced to Select File earlier this week with strong support.
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