New telemedicine law aims to remove barriers, improve health care access

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 7, 2020

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP —  A group of five bills that were signed into state law by the governor June 25 are intended to remove barriers and improve access to health care via telemedicine.

The bills were sponsored by state Rep. Doug Wozniak, R-Shelby Township, including primary sponsorship for one of them. The other bill sponsors, all of whom were the primary sponsor for one of the bills, were Reps. Phil Green, Frank Liberati, Hank Vaupel and Mary Whiteford. All are Republicans except for Liberati, who is a Democrat.

The bills allow patient data in the form of video and images to be stored and forwarded to health care providers, which ends a requirement that telehealth visits be done in real time. This change allows health care providers to analyze data to a greater level and respond at a later time, which should improve thoroughness and flexibility.

Wozniak said there are often challenges that prevent people from getting the health care they need, but the new law removes many barriers.

“Many Michigan communities have severe physician shortages. Many families face transportation issues. Expanding the use of telemedicine removes barriers like these so more people can get access to the care they need. It also increases efficiency and reduces expenses. This package is a positive step forward for Michigan health care,” Wozniak said in a press release.

There are other parts of the law intended to make access to health care easier.

Other parts of the new law will allow Medicaid to pay for telemedicine visits when a patient is at home or in school. Previous state law required patients to go to specific health facilities to have a telehealth visit covered by Medicaid. It also allows Medicaid to cover remote patient monitoring, which allows a doctor to get patient-generated health data during a telehealth visit and helps the doctor to assess the patient’s health.

The Legislature passed all five bills unanimously before going to the governor for her signature.

“Last week, I was proud to sign the bipartisan bill package that will increase telehealth access. I am prepared to continue to work with the Legislature on appropriate legislation to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the effects of this global pandemic on the people of Michigan. But COVID-19 is still present in Michigan, and it remains necessary to continue to promote the use of telehealth services to limit exposure and protect against the virus,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release.

For more information on the new law, visit www.legislature.mi.gov.

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