Michigan bill would allow out of state physicians to provide telehealth services in the state

A bill in Michigan would allow for out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth services to Michiganders. The bill follows similar efforts nationwide to expand telehealth access as medical professionals look towards a life beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, HB 4355, was filed by Rep. Ann Bollin on Feb. 24. She testified in front of the House Health Policy committee on Tuesday, explaining why this expansion of telehealth services could be beneficial:

“My interest in this reform came from a constituent who was trying to secure an out-of-state appointment for a specialist for her husband who had esophageal cancer. Securing this consultation from out-of-state was allowed under Executive Order 138. 

Within days of the appointment they were told it could not occur. This family was desperate for help and was deeply vested in obtaining a consultation with renowned specialists across state lines, the telehealth council would have offered a great deal of comfort during a very difficult time.”

The representative added that since the pandemic began, patients have shown a satisfaction rate of over 90% with telehealth services.

The bill would expand upon the executive order that was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in June which defined, expanded and encouraged the use of telehealth services. It also allowed physicians outside of the state to practice virtually in Michigan, a point of the order that would be codified if Rep. Bollin’s bill was to pass.

Only medical services that are already licensed and regulated in Michigan would be allowed to be performed by telehealth if the bill passes.

It would also serve to be an extension on a package of bills passed into law last year that made telehealth and virtual patient monitoring eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

 

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Use of telehealth rapidly expanded since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. While virtual care allows for physicians and patients to connect no matter the geographical boundaries, issues with licensing and patient protections have arisen. Many states have different guidelines and regulations for providing types of medical treatment in their states. Balancing the increased access of telehealth with patient protections has been a challenge for legislators across the county.

Bollin said that if her bill passes, it will be up to the Attorney General to protect consumers and hold physicians accountable in cases of malpractice. 

The representative is one of 16 House Republicans that has sponsored the bill. The bill is one of the 15 policy proposals laid out as a part of a bipartisan health care package unveiled in February.