Telehealth insurance bill advances

Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 6 to a bill that would prohibit insurance providers from excluding coverage for a service based solely on its deliverance through telehealth.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist24' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Mark Kolterman'>Sen. Mark Kolterman</a>
Sen. Mark Kolterman

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, sponsor of LB92, said the bill would require health insurance companies to cover any service provided via telehealth if the service is covered for an in-person consultation.

Kolterman said telehealth is particularly important to ensure timely delivery of health services — including primary care, specialist consultations and patient monitoring — to vulnerable populations in rural areas and those who are low-income or have mobility impairments.

“It’s time for Nebraska to expand telehealth services across the state and eliminate any doubt for doctors and patients that those services are covered by insurance,” he said.

A Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee amendment, adopted 33-0, clarifies that the bill would not apply to policies that provide coverage for a specified disease or other limited-benefit coverage.

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks supported the bill, saying telehealth has been vital in isolated rural areas such as the Pine Ridge Hospital near Whiteclay, Nebraska. Once a tower was placed nearby, she said, the hospital was able to connect via telehealth with the Mayo Clinic and other facilities to provide much needed supplemental support to their efforts to address behavioral health issues.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha also supported the bill, saying it would help to fill gaps in the state’s behavioral health provision due to a lack of providers. A therapist can be on one side of the state and provide services to a patient on the other side, he said, and the state should ensure that the services are covered.

“The medical profession defines our lack of psychological and psychiatric treatment across the state as an emergency,” he said. “Behavioral and mental health and substance abuse are on the top of the list of things that need corrected in this state.”

LB92 advanced to select file on a 34-0 vote.

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