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NCHA supports N.C. legislation to increase access to telehealth services

Thursday, April 11, 2019 – Raleigh, N.C. – North Carolina’s hospitals and health systems endorse legislation introduced today that will support healthcare providers in meeting the needs of patients and communities across the state through increased access to telehealth care. Primary bill sponsors are Rep. Jason Saine (R-97), Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-75), Rep. Josh Dobson (R-84), and Rep. Brenden Jones (R-46).

House Bill 721 calls for coverage and reimbursement for telehealth services consistent with that of in-person services through the state’s Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs as well as by private health plan providers.

“Telehealth services are a critical part of today’s healthcare delivery model, but many of our hospitals and health systems have had to curtail services because of restrictive or inadequate reimbursement policies,” said Steve Lawler, NCHA president. “This proposed change will help lower costs of care and, more importantly, improve the care experience for patients.”

Current Medicaid policy, for example, prohibits a patient from receiving telehealth care from medical professionals from their home or via a cell phone. Inconsistent private insurance coverage has prevented expansion of service offerings, especially in rural hospitals where telehealth can help address provider shortages.

Existing telehealth programs in our state have demonstrated the value of telehealth in a variety of ways, from preventing widespread exposure during a flu epidemic, to increasing access to lifesaving care for stroke patients, and reducing unnecessary emergency room visits for minor illnesses.

In other states, telehealth services are connecting behavioral health patients to timely care and helping them avoid costly emergency department visits. In Minnesota, for example, telehealth access to mental health providers reduced ED admissions by 19 percent and successfully referred 55 percent of patient encounters to outpatient services.

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