Legislature overrides veto of bill to promote telehealth for rural patients

Posted: August 02, 2017 | Health and Human Services, Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — The Maine Legislature on Wednesday voted to override Governor Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1485, a bill to require the state’s Medicaid program treat telehealth medical services the same way as in-person treatment.

The bill — sponsored by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor — passed the Maine Senate 25-9 and the Maine House 112-20.

Telehealth services utilize audio-video conferencing and remote monitoring to deliver a variety of medical services to patients without requiring them to meet in-person with a doctor. These services can help rural patients or patients who are unable to travel long distances get the care they need. Sen. Gratwick’s bill would ensure that Medicaid cover telehealth services  at the same rate as in-person services.

“Telehealth is a medical advancement whose time has come. It ensures access to medical attention for patients no matter where they live and saves money for providers,” said Sen. Gratwick. “This bill will bring MaineCare in line with much of the country by providing telehealth services just as in-person services are provided, and I am pleased that my colleagues voted to override Gov. LePage’s veto.”

Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation, with more than 270 towns in Maine are designated as “medically underserved” areas. . Difficulty with transportation and a lack of primary care providers puts thousands of Mainers living in rural parts of the state at a disadvantage.

Another telehealth bill sponsored by Sen. Gratwick, LD 949, would have required private insurers to cover services via telehealth just as they would cover in-person assessment and treatment. The bill was also vetoed by Gov. LePage. While the veto was overridden in the Senate on Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to uphold the veto.