Florida is one of the 34 states (plus the District of Columbia) to have legislated telehealth commercial insurance coverage, usually termed ‘parity’, for telehealth (telemedicine) virtual visits. It’s also the headquarters of many telehealth related companies, which makes it surprising that it took till 2016 for legislation to pass. In the law was the formation of a Telehealth Advisory Council within Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to report on the actual performance of insurers in paying for telehealth services. This Advisory Council recently met to review a draft copy of a 32-page report that will be sent to Florida’s Governor and Legislature later this month. That report contained some aggressive recommendations based on their provider survey, such as:
- Establishing a practitioner/patient relationship through telehealth alone, without a prior in-person visit
- Real parity in insurance company payment with in-person visits–in other words, payment at the same rate, which is explicitly stated in regulations in only three of the 34 states with telehealth ‘parity’ legislation
- Amend Medicaid rules to give provider reimbursement for more telehealth services–currently, Medicaid provides for reimbursement of live video conferencing only
- Authorize participation in interstate “compacts” that enable cross-state licensure for telehealth services. This was in the Florida House version of the bill in 2016 but dropped from the final version approved by both chambers.
The Advisory Council’s survey prior to the draft report showed lower than the national usage of telehealth: 6 percent of practitioners versus nationally 16 percent. 45 percent of Florida hospitals used telehealth, below the 52 percent of hospitals (with another 10 percent in the process) found in a 2013 national poll. For practitioners, the key barrier was financial in three areas: required investment, adequate reimbursement for services, and a financial return.
By law, the Advisory Council must complete its report by December 1, 2018, but it appears they are well ahead of schedule. Health News Florida (WUSF). Background from law firm Foley on the original legislation 14 March 2016