Idaho legislature begins repeal of telemedicine abortion ban

An agreement reached in the U.S. District Court in Idaho in [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Idaho-State-Capitol.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]January this year overturned Idaho’s ban of prescription of abortion-inducing drugs during a telemedicine consultation (see our previous article).

The settlement of the case before Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, required the Idaho legislature to repeal the laws that made such prescriptions over telemedicine consultations illegal. The repeals have to be carried out by the end of the 2017 session, else Judge Winmill will declare the laws unconstitutional and unenforceable, according to Mobi Health News .

Idaho legislature has accordingly started the process of removing the single line from the Telehealth Access Act which bans the prescription of abortion inducing drugs and repealing the law requiring the doctor to be physically present at the consultation when prescribing the drugs. This is to be achieved via the new House Bill 250, sponsored by the State Affairs Committee, named simply An Act relating to Abortion. The bill was introduced last Friday.

The wording of the bill emphasises the the view that the state believes that abortions induced by medicines prescribed via telemedicine consultations constitute “substandard medical care and that women and girls undergoing abortion deserve and require a higher level of professional medical care”. Planned Parenthood has said that it objects to this statement that telemedicine provides substandard care according to Boise Weekly.

The bill has made rapid progress having had its second reading yesterday and is currently filed for the third reading.

Utah telehealth expansion bill passes Senate and House

The bill to expand telehealth in Utah, which was amended by a [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Utah-Capitol-410372_1920.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Utah Senate committee on February 14th (see previous TTA article) has now been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representative in the state. The amended bill was passed by the Senate on Thursday last week and by the House the next day according to the Utah government website.

The original bill, HB154, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, had a controversial clause restricting the prescription of abortion medication during a telemedicine consultation. The amendment removed this restriction on the basis that such restrictions have been successfully challenged in the courts in other states.

The bill is now being “enrolled” and is expected to be signed into law in due course.

Utah Senate removes telehealth bill abortion restrictions

The controversial topic of abortion has been the centre of discussion of a new telehealth bill in Utah. The bill, HB 154, introduced by Republican Rep Ken Ivory, primarily addresses the issue of insurance coverage for telehealth in Utah and proposes to amend two previous acts and the Utah Insurance Code to achieve this. However, the bill also contained a controversial final clause which stated “A practitioner treating a patient through telehealth services, as described in Title 26, Chapter 59, Telehealth Act, may not issue a prescription through electronic prescribing for a drug or treatment to cause an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother would be endangered without an abortion”

Last week it was reported (in Healthcare IT News) that the bill was discussed in the Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Standing Committee. Similar restrictions on prescribing abortion medication following telemedicine consultations were legally challenged in Idaho by Planned Parenthood resulting in the ban being lifted at the end of January (mobilehealthnews, mhealthintelligence). Earlier, in June 2015, another legal challenge, this time in Iowa, went all the way to the Supreme Court which rejected a state requirement for doctors to see abortion patients in person and ruled that the regional Planned Parenthood unit  could continue to provide abortion inducing medication using remote video consultations.

According to data published by the Guttmacher Institute, as of February 1, 2017, there are 19 states which require a physician to be physically present when abortion inducing medication is prescribed (see Medication Abortion).

This week, when the Utah bill was discussed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee an amendment proposed by Republican Senator Brian Shiozawa removing the above abortion clause was accepted. Shiozawa expressed fears that a constitutional challenge could give negative publicity to  telehealth as a whole. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.