Telemedicine Gets A Bi-Partisan Boost In First House Hearing

Mar 12, 2015

Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) and Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) demonstrate bi-partisan support of a telemedicine bill.
Credit The Florida Channel

If you can’t get to the doctor, it could become easier for the doctor to come to you. That’s the point of telemedicine, which connects physicians to patients through video conferencing.  A compromise worked out with various hospitals, and physician organizations has cleared the way for a telemedicine proposal to get through the legislature.

During a press conference last month at the Capitol, Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) joined other lawmakers from both parties and both houses—in a show of unity for a bill to finally put telemedicine in state law.

“We are delighted, we’ve got a team as we celebrate the launch to bring telemedicine to Florida. It’s been here a long time, but to codify it in law is a big deal," he said.

Most of the opposition for the past several years has come from the Florida Medical Association. The powerful physician lobby group has demanded only Florida doctors be allowed to treat Florida patients.

“We’re a state of 19.2 million people, it’s hard to get everybody 100 percent," Bean said, when asked whether the FMA had shown any support for the plan.

During the House telemedicine bill’s first appearance Thursday, all the medical-based organizations in attendance, backed the proposal. Including the FMA's Jeff Scott, who gave the proposal a thumbs-up.

“We support this bill. And I’d like to thank Rep. Cummings and Rep. Jones for working with us and having the patience to go through some of the problems we’ve addressed, and took a lot of time to address our concerns and let us know they’re not so concerning.” 

The proposal put forth in the legislature explains what telemedicine is, how it works and who can practice. But Rep. Julio Gonzales (R-Venice), a surgeon, suggests it still needs some tweaking in one main area—how doctors who treat patients through telemedicine can get paid.

“I’m concerned the bill says nothing about reimbursement and holds no third party payers to account about the validity and the actual acceptance of these services as reimbursable events to be treated in manners like actual, on-the-spot, in-person, face-to-face, healthcare.”

The Senate’s version of the proposal allows the state’s Medicaid program to reimburse more physicians for telemedicine consultations. Still, longtime Telemedicine supporter and bill co-sponsor Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) says its time to get moving on the issue:

“Over this country there are over 100 bills that have been filed this year alone, recognizing the impact telemedicine and telehealth will have in our country," she said. "We know it will save money, it will save lives and it will change the dynamic of health in this country.” 

Telemedicine has been endorsed as a potential way to treat more people in more places with a goal of having better health outcomes.