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Alabama House passes bill to regulate telemedicine

The bill limits the number of telehealth visits regarding the same condition, with the same physician to four, before having to see a physician in person.

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama House on Tuesday approved in a unanimous vote a bill that would regulate aspects of telemedicine, and establish rules for the governance of the practice. The bill now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. 

Senate Bill 272, carried in the House on Tuesday by Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, would allow the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and the Medical Licensure Commission to draft  rules for the use of technology used to deliver telemedicine care. 

The bill also limits the number of telemedicine visits a patient can have regarding the same condition, with the same physician, before having to see a physician in person. That requirement does not apply to mental health counseling, however. 

“Access to telehealth is critical, especially in the rural communities,” Lee said prior to Tuesday’s vote. “We’ve seen that grow over the last several years.” 

Lee addressed concerns some have had over the bill’s limitations on the number of visits a person can have due to an ongoing health problem.  

“On the fifth visit with the same doctor, for the same problem, then your doctor needs – should refer you to see a person face-to-face,” Lee said. 

That does not mean that the person cannot continue to see a physician through telemedicine for that same problem for many times afterward, Lee said, but mandates that within 12 months they need to see a physician in person. 

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Lee was asked why telemedicine companies are against the bill, and Lee said “that’s a great question.” 

“Personally, I think it doesn’t fit their business model, but we’re not in it to fit one person’s business model,” Lee said. “We’re in it to fit what’s best for Alabama.” 

Claudia Tucker, vice president of government affairs for Teladoc Health, told members of the Alabama House of Representatives Health Committee last week that the requirement for the in-person visit after four visits with the same physician for the same problem is an “unnecessary obstacle.”

“95 percent of this bill is good, it’s really good. It could be one of the best in the country,” Tucker said last week. “The other 5 percent will put you at the bottom of the list of states that have enacted telehealth laws.”

Members approve the bill Tuesday in a unanimous vote, with one abstention. The Senate had already approved the bill which now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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