Colorado lawmakers advance bill to spread telehealth across state

Colorado_FlagA bill that would boost telemedicine in Colorado by preventing health insurance plans from requiring in-person care to patients when it can be appropriately provided remotely progressed to the House floor on a unanimous committee vote Thursday.

The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee approved a bill that would expand a current law supporting telemedicine — care delivered via a computer, smartphone or other device — only for patients residing in counties with 150,000 or fewer residents.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, and Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, was amended to call it telehealth — a reflection, committee members said, of the broad array of services that can be delivered using telecommunications and other information technologies. They approved an amendment that would push back removal of the population restrictions starting Jan. 1, 2017, rather than 2016.

If passed, the bill would preclude health plans from requiring in-person care if consulting, monitoring and other care could be administered as effectively at a distance. It would prevent plans from reimbursing providers who deliver telehealth on a different basis than for in-person care. Health plans could not charge different deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance amounts or set different annual or lifetime dollar maximums.

Telehealth would lower costs and improve access to medical services and outcomes in urban and rural areas, said supporting witnesses, including representatives of the Colorado Hospital Association, Centura Health hospital network, Colorado Association of Health Plans, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Telehealth Network. No one spoke against it.

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