Senate gives initial approval to Sen. Gratwick’s telehealth bill

Posted: June 05, 2017 | Health and Human Services, Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — A bill to improve access to health care for rural and island communities in Maine earned bipartisan support in the Maine Senate on Monday, clearing the first major hurdle for the bill’s ultimate passage.

Telehealth is the use of audio-video conferencing and remote monitoring to deliver medical, health and educational services. The bill — LD 949, sponsored by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, a retired physician from Bangor — recognizes advancements in health technology by requiring insurers to cover services provided remotely via telehealth just as they would cover in-person assessment and treatment.

“Telehealth is one of the largest advances in health care technology of the past century,” said Sen. Gratwick. “By closing the distance between doctors and patients, telehealth makes health care more accessible, especially to residents of rural communities that define our state. I’m thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for their support for this bill.”

Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation. The lack of transportation and 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.

The bill earned the support of several other individuals and organizations at the hearing, including EMMC Nurse Practitioner Kathleen Forti-Gallant, Peggy Shaffer on behalf of the Maine Broadband Coalition, Vice President of Clinical Operations at County Physical Therapy LLC Paul Marquis, CEO of York Hospital Jud Knox, President and CEO of Spectrum Generations Gerard Queally, and Carla Dickstein, Senior Vice-President of Research and Policy Development at Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

LD 949 faces further votes in the House and Senate.