Banking Commerce and Insurance

Pet insurance bill broadened to include telehealth provision, advanced

Senators amended and advanced a proposal April 4 that would create a state regulatory framework for the sale of pet insurance, which covers pet illness and accidents.

Sen. Beau Ballard
Sen. Beau Ballard

LB296, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Beau Ballard, would, among other provisions, require pet insurers to provide disclosures regarding waiting periods, claim schedules and exclusions for preexisting conditions. It also would require training for agents who sell pet insurance.

Omaha Sen. John Fredrickson offered an amendment during select file debate, adopted 28-0, to add provisions of his priority bill, Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer’s LB256.

The provisions would require that the reimbursement rate for a telehealth service be at least as much as a comparable in-person health care service if the licensed provider also provides in-person health care services at a physical location in Nebraska, or is employed by or holds medical staff privileges at a licensed facility in Nebraska that provides in-person health care services in the state.

Fredrickson said the importance of telehealth was made clear during the pandemic but that providers lack an incentive to provide such services due to uncertainty regarding reimbursement rates.

Brewer supported the amendment, which he said simply would ensure that a telehealth visit does not end up costing a patient more than an in-person visit. He said telehealth has become an essential part of health care in rural parts of the state.

“In some cases, it’s the only way to get health care in remote areas of central and western Nebraska,” Brewer said.

The amendment also included provisions originally offered by Omaha Sen. Kathleen Kauth in her LB640, which would require an off-campus hospital location to obtain and use a National Provider Identifier for reimbursement claims that is distinct from the NPI used by the main hospital campus.

Dunbar Sen. Julie Slama, chairperson of the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee, supported the bill and the amendment.

“This was really a team effort by all,” Slama said. “This represents a solid compromise and a great step forward to ensure access to health care, whether you’re seeking it in a very rural and remote part of the state or in an urban area where you just can’t take [time] off of work during the day.”

Following adoption of the Fredrickson amendment, lawmakers advanced LB296 from select file by voice vote.

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