Sen. Randi Becker’s fight to improve access to health care through telemedicine continues this week when the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee will hear three of her bills during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, in Senate Hearing Room 4.
Senate Bill 5385 would ensure that telemedicine providers are paid by insurance carriers for telemedicine visits at the same rate as if they had conducted the visits in person.
Senate Bill 5386 aims to develop more consistency in training standards for those providing telemedicine services.
Senate Bill 5387 would allow a hospital where a telemedicine visit is occurring to rely on the telemedicine credentials of a physician from a distant hospital.
“It’s a challenge for people who live in areas to get adequate health and mental health care where there isn’t easy access to care providers, particularly specialists,” said Becker, R-Olympia. “This includes many of my constituents because there isn’t a hospital in my district. The last thing you want to do when you are sick or suffering from mental illness is travel hours to see someone qualified to treat you. Telemedicine closes that distance and allows the health care system to do a better job making patients well.
“Demand is very high for telemedicine and has the potential to save $6 billion a year in health care costs for insurance companies. In fact, 93 percent of patients who have used telemedicine say it lowered their health care costs,” said Becker. “We should be doing everything we can to expand services and improve access.”
If the bills pass in committee, they could be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor. If passed off the floor, the bills would go to the House of Representatives for consideration.