State Update: Telehealth Bills Enacted in Minnesota, New Jersey

It’s been a busy year for telehealth in many state legislatures (not to mention on Capitol Hill). Indeed, an April report from the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) identified more than 200 telehealth-related bills that had been introduced in 44 states in 2017 alone. Now, two more states have enacted legislation that would make it easier to receive quality care via telehealth within their borders, with both bills taking steps to clearly define “telehealth” and “telemedicine.” As mHealth Intelligence first reported, lawmakers in both Minnesota and New Jersey have approved telehealth-related bills; this comes shortly after telehealth bills also became law in Hawaii and Vermont.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signed SF 1353 into law earlier this year after both state legislative chambers had passed it unanimously; the provisions officially took effect on August 1. The bill “define[s] telemedicine and clarify[ies] that health care providers working with patients remotely are subject to the same professional standards as those working with patients in person,” according to the state legislature. More specifically, it states that telehealth “may be provided by means of real-time two-way interactive audio, and visual communications, including the application of secure video conferencing or store-and-forward technology to provide or support health care delivery, that facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education and care management of a patient’s healthcare.” Thus, the bill eliminates audio-only encounters, as well as e-mail and fax encounters, from the definition of telehealth.

New Jersey’s legislation, as we reported earlier this year, will allow for parity in reimbursement, as well as allowing for the establishment of the provider-patient relationship via telehealth. The legislation also forbade insurance plans from requiring in-person visits before telehealth visits could be authorized, and it specifically prohibited audio-only encounters from being covered. Finally, it takes the first steps to add New Jersey to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. mHealth Intelligence notes that the bill did face some controversy on its way to passage. For example, legislators were urged to, and eventually did, “eliminate a proposed three-year deadline on using telehealth to establish the doctor-patient relationship with new patients.” Veterinary groups were also concerned about the implications of the legislation for veterinary medical professionals. Ultimately, however, the bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the state’s legislature, and Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed it into law in late July.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the Minnesota and New Jersey telehealth bills. 

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