Patients in Michigan will be able to use telehealth services to obtain drug prescriptions if the state House of Representatives passes Senate Bill 753.
The Michigan Senate voted 36–0, with one abstention, to approve SB 753, sponsored by state Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent County), on April 27. The House referred the legislation to the Committee on Health Policy the same day. The legislature has until December 31 to approve the bill.
If the bill becomes law, health care professionals with prescribing privileges under current law will be permitted to prescribe, using telehealth technology, non-controlled substances to patients who consent to treatment.
The bill also declares current law does not require Michigan patients to pay for telehealth services through a third-party payer, such as a private insurance company or Medicaid.
Increasing Patient Access
State Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-Ingham County), the bill’s lone Democrat sponsor, says he signed on because he believes the bill would help increase patients’ access to health care, in part by enticing Michigan’s health care professionals to remain in the state.
“We are having a hard time retaining qualified health care professionals in Michigan, and those who do remain are frequently unwilling to move to the rural areas of our state,” Hertel said.
Allowing health care professionals to prescribe drugs through telehealth will increase rural patients’ access to affordable health care, Hertel says.
“This bill would allow those in rural areas the ability to connect remotely with health care professionals, which would certainly increase access for those individuals,” Hertel said. “Telehealth is traditionally lower-cost than in-person visits, which would also assist individuals.”
The convenience and affordability of telehealth would reduce the amount of travel for health-related reasons, increase patients’ frequency of health monitoring, and make patients healthier, Hertel says.
“Senate Bill 753 would allow individuals to have checkups or health care visits on a more regular basis, because they will not have the current travel limitations associated with in-person medical visits,” Hertel said.
Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Latoya Thomas and Gary Capistrant, State Telemedicine Gaps Analysis: Coverage and Reimbursement, American Telemedicine Association, January 1, 2016: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/state-telemedicine-gaps-analysis-coverage-and-reimbursement
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