Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, this week voted in favor of a bipartisan package of telemedicine legislation that passed the state House of Representatives in an effort to improve access to health care for Michigan patients.
Under current law, telemedicine visits between patients and health care providers must be done in real time and only from specific locations. The legislation approved would allow patients to consult with their doctor from home, with no need to arrange childcare or take time off work, and with services available both day and night. It would also allow doctors to update patients on test results in the form of video and images. These changes would ensure patience have easier access to their doctors and that doctors have time to thoroughly analyze data and test results before advising patients.
“Today, when so much can be done online, it’s common-sense to let health care professionals speak with patients without actually being face-to-face,” Glenn said. “As COVID-19 continues to prevent people from visiting their doctor’s office to receive routine and preventative health care, it’s more important than ever that we make telemedicine more accessible.”
Current Michigan laws also require Medicaid patients to travel to a secondary location – such as a county mental health clinic, hospital, or physician’s office – to participate in a telemedicine visit. This plan would allow Medicaid to pay for telemedicine visits when a patient is at home, work, or in school.
Rep. Glenn said the plan will also remove barriers for those who don’t have health insurance, as telemedicine services are a fraction of the cost of in-office visits. In addition, it would be more convenient to connect with a doctor for those without a primary care doctor.
“It makes no sense to tell patients they can have an online appointment, yet require them to travel to a secondary location anyway, which defeats the whole purpose,” Glenn said. “This legislation would fix this major flaw, benefiting both patients and health care workers.”
Prior to COVID-19, barriers to health care delivery included limited access to transportation and lack of available providers in a geographic area, both of which affected patients in Michigan’s rural communities. Now, during the pandemic, many patients are unable to access routine and preventative health care, and others are too high-risk to leave their homes.
“Increased use of telemedicine is a common-sense solution for families in Bay and Midland counties,” Glenn said. “This much-needed change will allow patients to access the appropriate, secure care they need without having to go to an office where they could come into contact with others who have contagious illnesses. This is especially important for people with health complications that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.”
House Bills 5412-5416 will now head to the Senate for further consideration.