New bill will expand insurance coverage to include telemedicine
Representatives of Minnesota hospitals stood with
legislators today in support of legislation that will bring new access to high-quality,
cost-effective health care to all of Minnesota’s most remote citizens. Sen.
Julie Rosen (R – Vernon Center) and Rep. Tara Mack’s (R – Apple Valley)
legislation would expand health insurance coverage to include telemedicine
visits, coverage that is inconsistent currently.
Telemedicine is an increasingly used technology to bring health care
resources, including specialists, to people and communities that otherwise
would have difficulty accessing them. The technology has been shown to increase
access to health care services, improve health outcomes for patients and reduce
health care costs.
“Telehealth is a critical tool, not only for greater Minnesota but
also for the entire state,” said Sen. Rosen, ranking member of the Senate
Health and Human Services Finance Committee. “Whether allowing home-bound
seniors to check in with their doctor or connecting rural clinics to physicians
at emergency room trauma centers many miles away, these are technologies that
are improving our state’s health care system.”
In addition to keeping health care costs down for patients, health
plans and employers while improving health outcomes through better access to
care, telemedicine technology enables life-saving partnerships to take place.
As just one example, several hospitals across Greater Minnesota have direct
access to an interventional neurologist from St. Cloud Hospital’s Stroke
Center, assisting in fast diagnosis and treatment decisions from highly
trained specialists that can save lives.
“This legislation seeks to promote greater adoption of and
reimbursement for telemedicine services within Medicaid and private
insurance,” said Rep. Mack, chair of the Health and Human Services Reform
Committee. “There is no reason not to have uniformity across the state for
these services and to treat them with similar value as in-person visits.”
Currently, many of Minnesota’s health plans pay for certain telemedicine
services. Coverage for these services, however, is not consistent across
insurance companies and the types of providers eligible for reimbursement are
“Passing this bill would help us use this technology to bring a
broader range of key care services to vulnerable patients. For example, we
could provide crucial education about managing serious diseases, such as
diabetes,” said Maureen Ideker, Director of Telemedicine for Essentia Health.
“Additionally, telemedicine visits for patients living in assisted living or
group homes are not covered under current policy, so they have to be taken to
another site to receive telemedicine services or to a physical clinic, which
can be very disruptive.”
Existing telemedicine programs across the state have already made a
dramatic impact in better access to health services and improving quality
outcomes, like lower patient transfer and readmission rates, faster access to
specialists, shorter hospitals stays and better survival rates. Avera Health
delivers telemedicine services in multiple areas, including ICU, Emergency
and Pharmacy, while Mille Lacs Health System provides critical tele-mental
health access throughout its clinic network. For patients in Greater
Minnesota where distance and specialist availability are limited, these are
important health care quality improvements.
“The best way for Minnesota to ‘jump start’ greater use of
tele-health is to ensure that providers can rely on health plans to reimburse
them for delivering care through this technology,” said Barbara Joers, President
and CEO of Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. “By doing this, we will provide
greater access to health care services and better utilize the workforce