Due to the strong commitment of the members of the Florida telehealth community, the aforementioned bill was passed. The new telehealth law “creates a registration process for out-of-state health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver health care services to Florida patients, and introduces less-than-ideal commercial reimbursement provisions” (Ferrante & Lactman, par. 1). It also establishes the significance of these services in the state and new practice standards.
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The Florida Telehealth Advisory Council carried out a research review of the state’s facilities, providers, as well as its health plans, and made a thorough report, recommending the Legislature to pass a telehealth bill (Ferrante & Lactman, par. 2). It has clear suggestions of what and how the government should change in the already existing system to expand the law and make it more efficient.
Adoption of the Reform
The bill was passed in April 2019 by the Florida State Legislature, and was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis the same year in June, making it official. The Florida Telehealth Advisory Council’s report gave specific clear recommendations regarding each aspect of the issue. That included telehealth itself, health insurance, patient/consumer protection, technology, health practitioner licensure and standards of care. Although the council was formed in 2016, it took several years for the changes to establish themselves.
One of the main reasons for the bill to be signed into law was that telehealth was a strong benefit for people who live in small towns remote from doctors. For patients who are homebound, it would also create more opportunities for being examined by a specialist. Therefore, the law needed expansion for people to get the medical help they need.
The legislation would also let insurance companies, as well as, HMO (health maintenance organization) networks to cover providers that are not Florida based. That is the practice already common in Washington D.C. and other 39 states. Out-of-state providers that do not have a Florida license will be allowed to do their job after completing certain steps. The bill also lays out the criteria for out-of-state specialists, one of them strictly prohibiting those who have been reprimanded in their home states.
Although passing the bill is a big step forward, the state’s reimbursement policy is not strong enough. It, unfortunately, does not demand health plans for covering services provided by telehealth.
Research shows that “for fiscal year 2019-2020, the sums of $261,389 in recurring … and $15,020 … nonrecurring funds … are appropriated to the Department of Health” (Laws of Florida, ch. 137, para. 3). It is also important to note that for implementing the new law “four full-time equivalent positions with associated salary rate of 145,870” (Laws of Florida, ch. 137, para. 3). As per House of Representatives Staff Analysis (2019), the bill is estimated to have a negative impact of $31.4 million on General Revenue in … 2020-21”. It may be “growing to $35.4 million annually by … 2023-24” (House of Representatives Staff Analysis, 2019).
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Research shows that “health plan reimbursement continues to be a… block for telehealth providers and patients as Florida remains… without a meaningful telehealth insurance coverage law” (Ferrante & Lactman, par.10). Nevertheless, people have been granted remote access to health specialists’ consultations, qualified medical advice, and prescriptions. These are small steps towards turning the state more telehealth friendly, but the changes are already happening.
Ferrante, T. B. & Lacktman N. M. (2019). Florida Legislature Passes New Telehealth Law. Health Care Law Today. Web.
House of Representative Staff Analysis (2019). Web.
Laws of Florida (2019). Web.
Telehealth Advisory Council (2017). Expanding Florida’s Use and Accessibility of Telehealth. Web.