HARRISBURG – The Senate today gave final approval to Senate Bill 857, legislation that would help more patients overcome barriers to care during the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting the use of telemedicine, according to Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville). The delivery of healthcare services through telecommunications technology will ensure these services are more accessible, reduce costs, and limit in-person contact during the public health emergency.
The bill establishes guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and gives clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services. Additionally, under the bill, physicians and other health practitioners delivering telemedicine services would still be required to follow standard state licensure and medical practice laws and requirements in Pennsylvania.
“At a time when our hospitals are experiencing unprecedented financial hardships, we must do all that we can to ensure they’re being appropriately reimbursed for the services they are providing,” said Aument. “Pennsylvanians are staying home and forgoing many routine medical appointments in order to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. However, the need for continued medical services – and coverage for those services – during the quarantine has not gone away, and to that end, it is imperative now more than ever that we give Pennsylvanians a way to see their doctor from the comfort and safety of their home.”
In addition, the prescription of medications that could create a danger to the patient if misused would be prohibited; those prescriptions would still require an in-person visit.
To that end, many Senate Democrats argued that Senate Bill 857 would restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, because it aligns the list of medications that doctors can administer via telemedicine with a list developed by the FDA in 2019, which prohibits the use of a medication used to administer abortions.
“I want to be very clear – Senate Bill 857 in no way changes current law in Pennsylvania with respect to abortion. It simply expands coverage for telemedicine services. Pennsylvanians cannot currently get a ‘tele-abortion,’ so it’s difficult for me to see how passing a bill to expand telemedicine coverage equates to restricting women’s rights. What opponents are upset about is the fact that this bill doesn’t expand abortion access. But that was never the intent of the bill. Senate Bill 857 is a telemedicine bill, intended to ensure Pennsylvanians are covered for telemedicine appointments during a time when they arguably need them most.”
The bill is supported by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and AARP.
The bill will now be presented to Governor Wolf for his signature.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420