Senate seeks funding for Gratwick bill for MaineCare telehealth parity

Posted: June 12, 2017 | Appropriations and Financial Affairs, Health and Human Services, Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Monday indicated its desire to enact 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.

The Senate sent the measure to the Special Appropriations Table, signaling its desire that budget-writers find funding for the bill so that it may be enacted. All bills that require funding must be sent to the Appropriations Committee before they may become law.

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.

“Too many patients in rural areas have too far to travel for medical attention, costing them both time and money. Telehealth is a win-win proposal for patients in rural Maine and for health care providers,” said Sen. Gratwick. “This bill helps to make telehealth standard practice in Maine, bringing our state in line with the best medical practices in the country. I am extremely pleased my Senate colleagues saw the clear benefits of this proposal. ”

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.

Lawmakers on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will consider funding for the bill during ongoing budget negotiations.