Recent Telemedicine Developments | September 28, 2017

Dan Kuperstein

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While telemedicine has historically been heavily restricted by state medical licensing laws, there are signs that this is changing. Remember that providing a telemedicine program to employees can raise a number of compliance issues.

Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
SB 1107 Text
ACA(now) – News on Washington


Video Transcript: 
Hi, I’m Dan Kuperstein, and welcome to this episode of ComplianceMINUTE.

While state medical licensing laws have historically imposed significant restrictions on telemedicine practitioners and limited the value and availability of telemedicine services to employees, there are some new signs that this is changing.

This summer, the state of Texas passed SB 1107, which is a law that prohibits regulatory agencies with authority over a health professional from adopting rules pertaining to telemedicine that would impose a higher standard of care than the in-person standard of care. Under SB 1107, the Texas Medical Board must revise portions of its existing telemedicine regulations, which had been considered to be among the most restrictive in the country. The new law will require elimination of provisions that had required, among other burdensome provisions, that interaction between the patient and telemedicine practitioner must be conducted through live video feed.

Like Texas, other states have recently relaxed their rules relating to telemedicine practitioners seeking to prescribe controlled substances. The Florida Board of Medicine, for example, replaced its ban on any prescription of controlled substances using telemedicine with a new rule that allows telemedicine practitioners, with certain exceptions, to issue such prescriptions.

Also, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware, Indiana and Michigan have also expanded the circumstances under which telemedicine practitioners can prescribe controlled substances.

Additionally, in an effort to facilitate license portability and the practice of interstate telemedicine, the Federation of State Medical Boards developed an Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.

25 states participate in the Compact. Under the Compact, licensed physicians can qualify to practice medicine across state lines within the Compact if they meet the agreed-upon eligibility requirements.

So, what are the key takeaways here for employers? While these recent actions by states to encourage the growth of telemedicine may encourage more employers to start offering telemedicine services, employers should be aware that telemedicine plans are considered group health plans, and as with any group health plan, providing a telemedicine program to employees can raise a number of compliance issues under the ACA, HIPAA, and COBRA, as well as disqualify individuals participating in a high deductible health plan from contributing to their health savings account.

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