By Brianne Pfannenstiel - Kansas City Business Journal - July 8, 2013)
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon today signed a bill requiring health insurance carriers to cover services provided through telemedicine.
If the same service would be covered in an in-person visit, then the same service must be covered if received remotely, the legislation requires. It also prevents carriers from charging higher rates or co-pays for telemedicine visits.
Telemedicine, which connects patients and doctors through high-powered camera and audio systems, is particularly useful for patients in rural areas who do not have easy access to specialists.
Dr. Laura Fitzmaurice, chief medical information officer at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, recently cited a roughly 300 percent growth in the hospitals’ telemedicine practice.
She said in an earlier interview that this kind of legislation would help Children’s Mercy patients using the service. Typically, only patients living 50 miles away from providers have been eligible for insurance coverage for the visits.
Children’s Mercy is conducting a study to measure how effective its telemedicine programs are in comparison with traditional office visits, though it has not yet released results.
The new coverage requirements will take effect January 1.