Telehealth and Florida
Question: When it comes to the issue of telemedicine, what is the main concern of Florida healthcare providers who will utilize this technology to provide care to Floridians? In other words: As a provider how will I get paid for my services?
The Florida Legislature is attempting to answer this important question by way of developing a comprehensive report about the legal landscape of telemedicine and reimbursement. Specifically, The Florida Legislature has just passed a new bill designed to set the stage for telehealth commercial insurance coverage in the Sunshine State. This is a great step forward for providers of telehealth services, as the bill will result in a formal report to the Governor and Legislature detailing evidence and surveys conducted by state agencies regarding an objective assessment of Florida’s telehealth landscape, with a particular focus on commercial insurance coverage.
The bill,(CS/CSHB 7087: Telehealth) is not an insurance coverage mandate, but it will equip Florida lawmakers with the information they need to move beyond speculation and make a truly informed decision on telehealth policy based on the actual market environment in the State.
The key language contained in the bill creates a formal Telehealth Advisory Council within Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). It also requires Florida’s Department of Health, Office of Insurance Regulation, and AHCA to survey providers, professionals, facilities, and health plans to determine the extent that commercial health plans are actually covering telehealth services in Florida, as well as the reimbursement rates the plans are actually paying to providers. Providers and insurers that refuse to report the information can face fines and penalties. The surveys and research data must be completed and complied by June 30, 2018.
The Telehealth Advisory Council will be charged with taking data and research findings, and delivering a report to the Governor and the Legislature containing policy recommendations to increase the use and accessibility of telehealth services, as well as any barriers that should be removed, for instance restrictions on reimbursement for providing telemedicine services.
Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have telehealth commercial insurance laws requiring commercial health insurance companies cover services provided via telehealth to the same extent those services are covered if provided in-person. Continued expansions in reimbursement mean providers can enhance telehealth offerings, both for the immediate cost savings and growing opportunities for revenue generation. Commercial insurance reimbursement was among the five telemedicine trends driving healthcare transformation in 2016. It follows that this trend will continue through 2017 and beyond.
Therefore, it would behoove healthcare providers in Florida to keep their eyes on this trend and to take the necessary actions to receive the financial benefit of involving Telemedicine technology to their current services.