Senate OKs Gratwick bill for MaineCare telehealth parity

Posted: June 07, 2017 | Health and Human Services, Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Wednesday gave unanimous, initial approval to LD 1485, a bill to require the state’s Medicaid program 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.

“When it comes to Mainers’ health, the state should keep up with the latest technology to ensure the highest quality of care is available to all its citizens. Telehealth allows patients who live far away from their health care provider to get the same care they would if they lived next door,” said Sen. Gratwick. “Medicaid should cover any service that’s appropriate for the patient, regardless of whether that services is provided remotely or in-person.”

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 earlier this year. 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 faces further votes in the House and Senate.