Telehealth expansion clears first round

Nebraskans would have greater access to telehealth services under a bill advanced from general file March 9.

LB400, introduced by Sen. John Arch of La Vista, would allow individuals to receive audio-only telehealth for behavioral health services.

Sen. John Arch
Sen. John Arch

The bill also would allow an individual to receive telehealth services with verbal approval during a patient’s first telehealth visit. Under current law, Nebraskans must give written consent to receive telehealth services prior to those services being provided. LB400 would require that written approval be received within 10 days of a patient giving verbal consent.

In addition, LB400 would prohibit insurers from excluding coverage solely based on a patient’s originating location.

Arch said telehealth utilization has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly behavioral health services — and LB400 would improve access to care by making permanent some of the emergency measures put in place at the start of the pandemic.

“Studies show most behavioral health services can be delivered effectively through audio-only means,” he said.

Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward supported the bill. Telehealth access will become even more critical as Nebraska expands broadband services into rural areas, he said.

“Telehealth is a way that we can deliver health care services across the state to everyone,” Kolterman said.

Lawmakers adopted an amendment 46-0 that narrowed the definition of audio-only behavioral health services to individual services provided to established patients only. Arch said the change would ensure that group therapy was not included in the bill’s provisions.

LB400 advanced to select file on a vote of 46-0.

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