State Rep. Dan Howell (R-Cleveland), State Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore), State Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) and the House of Representatives are working to make telemedicine permanent in the state’s health practices.

Before temporarily recessing on March 19, members approved House Bill 1699, sponsored by State Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) and co-sponsored by Howell and Hall with an 88-0 vote. This initiative paves the way to increase the electronic delivery of care in Tennessee through telemedicine.

The legislation defines provider-based telemedicine by adding a private location that a patient deems appropriate to receive services.

“As chairman of the House Insurance Committee and sponsor of this legislation, I believe this conservative solution to health care delivery in Tennessee will provide an extraordinary benefit to our citizens, whether in response to this virus pandemic, the recent tornado outbreak across our region, or by meeting the needs of Tennessee patients in their homes or place of work,” said Smith. “It is an honor to partner with Speaker Sexton and Reps. Howell and Hall to utilize innovation and increase access to quality health services for more of our citizens through telemedicine.”

House Bill 1699 protects existing telehealth arrangements that do not require an existing doctor-patient relationship. It also creates a structure for all providers to use telemedicine with established patients who have been seen in their practice in the last 18 months for follow-up care at home, in their place of work or other mobile locations as long as the provider has access to the relevant public record.

Chronically ill patients with ailments such as diabetes and congestive heart failure are expected to benefit from the inclusion of remote patient monitoring, which is currently a service provided by Medicare.

“This legislation will help many of our citizens who can’t visit a doctor’s office for a well visit or in a non-emergency situation to address an important health need,” said Howell and Hall. “Access and affordability are vital to our health care system and leveraging technology like telemedicine can help our Tennessee patients have improved health and outcomes.”

House Bill 1699 also includes a provision for payment parity among doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This measure, preceding the emergency actions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to prioritize telemedicine and its reimbursement during the COVID-19 outbreak, incorporates existing technology in the care of Tennesseans on an ongoing basis, leveraging successful outcomes already achieved in response to the urgent pandemic, according to officials.

“The electronic delivery of specialized care through telemedicine will drastically improve patient safety by reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure in the weeks and months ahead,” said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). “This innovative concept will also untangle our current monopolistic approach to health care in Tennessee by increasing access to resources — especially in our rural communities — so we can better serve citizens.”

For more information about House Bill 1699, visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/111/Bill/HB1699.pdf

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