For the Week Ending March 2, 2012
The House Health Care Committee endorsed legislation Friday intended to increase access to medical services through telemedicine. The committee reasoned that opening the door to telemedicine will ease access to medical care, especially for rural, underserved areas of Vermont. The bill (H.37) will require health insurance reimbursement for medical services delivered to a patient through live interactive audio and video connections the same as if it was delivered through an in-person visit.
Concerns about the potential for increased cost through fraud and abuse prompted the committee to narrowly define telemedicine as live and interactive but they decided to allow insurers to determine if they will pay for non-interactive “store and forward” consultations for two specialties: ophthalmology and dermatology.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee gave its approval to a rewritten bill (S.223) to require private insurance and Medicaid coverage for early childhood developmental disorders for persons 18 months to 21 years old. The bill was introduced as an expansion of an existing autism spectrum disorders mandate, but the committee adopted substitute recommendations from the state Agency of Human Services to cap the age at 21 and expand the scope to include other developmental disorders. The committee added a clause to eliminate the mandate if it does not meet federal requirements under the Accountable Care Act (ACA). The bill will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for its review before going to the full Senate for its consideration.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee also heard testimony on a bill (S.200) to require health insurers to publicize claims denial rates and a long list of information but decided the bill would need additional work before a vote could be taken.
In other action last week, the full Senate approved a bill (S.199) it hopes will stem the dramatic decrease in childhood vaccination rates. The chamber adopted a health and Welfare Committee recommendation to remove a “philosophical” exemption from the state statute that requires vaccinations before enrollment in school systems. A religious exemption will remain in force.
The full Senate also passed a bill (S.197) related to hospital based outpatient fees. The bill was introduced in response to a legislator’s concern that a facility charge was being added to office visit fees for physician practices acquired by hospitals. The Senate-passed bill requires written notice to a patient prior to the patient’s first visit after hospital acquisition of a practice.
The legislature will not be in session next week while it takes its annual “Town Meeting Day” break and legislators attend Town Meeting activities in their districts. There will be no “Legislative Report” next week.
For more information on legislative proposals, visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont website at www.bcbsvt.com or call Leigh Tofferi at (802) 223-6131 or Kathy Parry at (802) 371-3205. If you wish to discontinue receiving these updates or know of anyone else who would like to receive it, please call Kathy Parry or send an e-mail to email@example.com