Insurance paying for telemedicine would be required under legislation
By Don Davis Forum News Service ST. PAUL -- Forcing insurance companies to pay for telemedicine appointments could bring specialized health care to all parts of Minnesota, hospital officials and lawmakers say. While some health insurance policies...
By Don Davis
Forum News Service
ST. PAUL - Forcing insurance companies to pay for telemedicine appointments could bring specialized health care to all parts of Minnesota, hospital officials and lawmakers say.
While some health insurance policies already pay for telemedicine, the use of technology to allow a distance health care professional to examine a patient, state legislation announced Wednesday would require all policies to provide reimbursement.
“Let’s get medicine into the 21st century,” said Dr. Jon Pryor, CEO of Hennepin County Medical Center.
Medical specialists are scarce in greater Minnesota, but patients can access them in local clinics or even from home via video connections.
Mandy Bell of Avera Health, with 15 southwestern Minnesota clinics, said that forcing insurance coverage would further increase telemedicine availability and improve care.
Up to 30 percent of telemedicine patients say they would not receive health care if not for telemedicine, Bell said.
Maureen Ideker, who works in western Minnesota for Duluth-based Essentia Health, gave an example of someone who would benefit from telemedicine as a diabetic who needs weight control help. That service may not be available in parts of rural Minnesota, she said.
Ideker said that insurance does not cover assisted living and group home residents, but would under the bill, allowing them to stay home or near home for medical services.
Health professionals said it is difficult to transport disabled or sick Minnesotans to specialists, while it would be much easier if they could stay near home.
“It alleviates a lot of provider shortages we are seeing,” said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center.
Shortages of rural health care professionals likely will grow, added Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley. Expanded use of telemedicine could help the problem, he added.
Rep. Jennifer Schultz, D-Duluth, said telemedicine is more convenient.
“We really need to get to the point where we have patient-centered care,” Schultz said.
Bill supporter Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, said he has been a volunteer emergency medical technician for nearly 20 years and has seen firsthand local hospital personnel communicating with Fargo, N.D., doctors.
when treating patients.