Bill to require parity for telehealth services by MaineCare earns committee approval

Posted: May 22, 2017 | Health and Human Services, Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously Friday to recommend the passage of LD 1485, a bill to require Medicaid treat telehealth medical services the same way as in-person treatment.

The bill, “An Act Regarding MaineCare Coverage for Telehealth Services,” is sponsored by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor.

Telehealth is the use of audio-video conferencing and remote monitoring to deliver a wide variety of medical services. Sen. Gratwick’s bill would ensure that Medicaid cover telehealth services  at the same rate as in-person services. This is already the case for all private insurance carriers.

“Telehealth is an established, effective form of health care delivery. It means that patients who live far away from their doctor or have difficulty with transportation can get the same care that they would if they saw the doctor in person. The technology is evolving and this bill ensures that Maine keeps in-step with the best medical practices in the country,” said Sen. Gratwick. “I applaud the  HHS committee for their agreement to take this important step for the health of Maine people.”

Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation, with 11 of its 16 counties classified as such. Difficulty with transportation and a lack of primary care providers puts thousands of Mainers living in rural parts of the state at a disadvantage. Over 270 towns in Maine are designated as “medically underserved” areas. Telehealth allows

Elise Magnuson of the Maine Psychological Association spoke in favor of the bill at the public hearing last week. She said that while most insurers cover telehealth services, some “cover clinical services at a lower reimbursement rate.”

The bill also received the support of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and is one of three bills Gratwick has introduced on telehealth to bring Maine up to date with best practices in the country.

LD 1485 will go before the full Legislature in the coming weeks.