Republican offers bill to allow ‘telehealth’ in Iowa

TelemedicineBy Bob Eschliman


A bill offered last week, and which has advanced out of subcommittee to the House Committee on Human Resources, would create the practice of “telehealth” – healthcare provided remotely – in Iowa.

House File 218, authored by state Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant), would allow any licensed health care professional, “as appropriate to the scope of practice of the profession,” to use telehealth technology. Telehealth uses electronic technology to overcome a geographic distance between patients and health care providers for the purpose of intervention, clinical management, or assessing, monitoring, or educating patients.

The bill’s language explains why telehealth can help Iowans:

“The provision of telehealth results in demonstrated cost-effectiveness, improvements in disease management, and improved patient outcomes and studies by the American telemedicine association and others have demonstrated significant reductions in hospitalizations and otherwise necessary medical care as a result of telehealth intervention.

“Geography, weather, availability of specialists, transportation, and other factors can create barriers to accessing appropriate health care, including behavioral health care, and one way to provide, ensure, or enhance access to care given these barriers is through the appropriate use of technology to allow health care consumers access to qualified health care professionals.

“Additionally, the utilization of telehealth will further the maintenance and improvement of the physical and economic health of patients in medically underserved communities by retaining the source of health care in local areas, strengthening the health infrastructure, and preserving health-care-related jobs.”

HF 218 requires a health care professional employing telehealth technology must hold a current valid license and must be “trained, educated, and knowledgeable regarding the health care service provided and technology used.” It prohibits the use of telehealth when the professional lacks sufficient training, education, and knowledge.

The bill provides that standards of care do not deviate for professionals who use telehealth. If enacted, it would also require all health insurance policies issued and beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2016, to not deny coverage on the basis that services were provided via telehealth.

HF 218 has the support of the Iowa Primary Care Association, the Iowa Psychological Association, the League of Women Voters of Iowa, the Family Planning Council of Iowa, the Iowa Pharmacy Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association, the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National MS Society, the Mercy Health Network, Gunderson Lutheran Administrative Services Inc., the Polk County Medical Society, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, UnityPoint Health, the Iowa Alliance in Home Care, the Iowa Medical Society, Genesis Health System, the Iowa Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association, the Iowa Psychiatric Society, Easter Seals of Iowa, and the Iowa Hospital Association.

The following lobbyist groups have indicated they are “undecided” on the proposed legislation: Teladoc, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, AARP of Iowa, the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Iowa Behavioral Health Association, the Polk County Board of Supervisors, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, the Iowa Chronic Care Consortium, HyVee Inc., LeadingAge Iowa, the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, the Iowa Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers, Meridian Health Plan, the Iowa Department of Human Services, Magellan Health Inc., the Iowa Department on Aging, the Iowa Speech Language Hearing Association, the Iowa Medical Group Management Association, the Iowa Dental Association, Americas Health Insurance Plans, the Federation of Iowa Insurers, Wellmark Inc., Delta Dental of Iowa, Iowa Independent Physician Group, The Iowa Clinic, and the Iowa Board of Regents.