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House OKs telehealth bill but controversial reimbursement issue is looming

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A House healthcare panel approved a telehealth bill on Thursday but there were warnings that the measure isn’t “floor ready.”

The reason? The bill, HB 545, has no requirement that government or third parties reimburse doctors and healthcare providers for rendering telehealth services.

“I’m concerned the bill says nothing about reimbursement and holds no third party (accountable),” House Health Quality Subcommittee member Julio Gonzalez, an orthopedic surgeon said, adding, “I will tell you, I don’t think it’s ready for the Floor.”

State Rep. Mia Jones, who is co-sponosring the bill along with state Rep. Travis Cummings, agreed with Gonzalez.

“I would agree with you,” she told Gonzalez. “We still have work to do.”

Nevertheless, lobbyists representing medical doctors and other healthcare professions supported the bill at its first committee stop in the House, as did the managed-care industry. Before being voted out of committee unanimously, legislators agreed to tack onto the bill a strike-all amendment. Sponsored by Cummings, the amendment makes clear that telehealth products are not discount medical plans.

There are differences between the House and Senate telehealth bills as the second week of session draws to an end. The Senate bill, CS/SB 478, specifically precludes the use of telehealth to prescribe lenses, spectacles, eyeglasses, contact lenses or other optical devices. While there was an amendment to the House bill addressing that issue, it was withdrawn.

The Senate bill does not include the discount medical plan language that the House tagged onto its bill on Thursday.

Both bills allow a broad spectrum of Florida licensed healthcare professionals to render telehealth services and both measures require that the standard of telehealth are identical to the standard of in-person health care delivery.

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