Telehealth plan continues cruising in Florida House

Bill sponsored by Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A House panel Thursday moved forward with a telehealth bill that includes a $35 million tax break for HMOs and insurance companies.

The House Health Human & Services Committee voted 14-3 to approve the bill (HB 23), with three Democrats opposed.

Before voting on the bill, the committee added clinical labs to the list of providers who could provide telehealth services.

The bill would put into law a definition of telehealth and would allow the use of out-of-state health care providers who register with the state.

The tax credit -- in an amount equal to one-tenth of 1 percent -- could be applied against corporate income taxes or insurance premium taxes.

It was the inclusion of the tax credit that caused opponents to vote against the measure.

“I want to thank you for the first half of the bill. It’s fantastic. But when you start giving corporate welfare tax credits that’s my problem,” Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, said.

Telehealth, which involves using the internet and other technology to provide health care, is one of House Speaker Jose Oliva’s priorities during the 2019 legislative session.

While telehealth is already used in the state, the legislation would provide a regulatory and legal framework.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, is now ready to go to the House floor.

A Senate version (SB 1526), sponsored by Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, doesn’t contain tax breaks for insurance companies. But it includes a mandate that insurers and HMOs reimburse health providers for telehealth services as they would if the services were provided face to face.

News Service of Florida