Next week, the House health committee is scheduled to discuss HB 283, the Telehealth Fairness Act. If enacted, insurance companies would be forced to reimburse providers for any health service provided via telemedicine that is otherwise treated in-office. Similar telemedicine bills have been filed in previous sessions, however this version comes with a game changer: while telemedicine is a leading innovative method that delivers health care in a more cost-effective manner, this health benefit mandate would reimburse telemedicine services at the same rate as treatment performed in a physical office setting.
Health benefit mandates are laws that require insurance companies to cover certain treatments and steer patients towards certain providers for care.
Improving access to health care is important, but benefit mandates aren’t always necessary to solve this problem. On many levels of care, the market has been working to extend important health care benefits to patients without paternalistic advances. As for telemedicine, insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield have decided on their own to offer plans that cover telemedicine psychiatric services, psychotherapy, health behavior assessments, diabetic counseling, and more. Other physicians who practice direct primary care provide telehealth as a value-added benefit that is included in their patients’ monthly membership fees.