Senate panel signs off on telehealth measure


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a telehealth measure focused on allowing doctors and other health-care providers to use technology to remotely provide care to patients.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who has filed telehealth legislation for the past four years, joked with members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services that “the fifth time is the charm” before the panel signed off on the bill (SB 280).

Lawmakers in recent years have repeatedly tried to agree on a framework for what’s allowable and what’s not.

The Senate proposal contains some of the recommendations included in a report by the Telehealth Advisory Council, such as requiring health-care practitioners who provide care through telehealth to be licensed.

The bill also includes the advisory council’s recommendation to ban the use of telehealth for prescribing controlled substances to treat chronic or nonmalignant pain or to certify patients for medical marijuana treatment.

Other recommendations aimed at helping telehealth flourish, such as requiring telehealth parity, didn’t make it into Bean’s bill.

The parity issue deals with requiring insurance coverage and provider reimbursements to be equitable whether care is provided in person or through telehealth.

Bean acknowledged that the bill didn’t contain all the of the panel’s recommendations, which included mandates.

Prior to casting her vote in favor of the bill, Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said telehealth “saved” her because her pediatric dermatologist was able to use Facetime to treat one of her young twins for hives.

A similar proposal (HB 793) has not yet been vetted in the House.