Rep. Vaupel plan improving access to telehealth advances to House floor

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Bipartisan plan makes preventative and routine health care more accessible for Michigan patients in COVID-19 era

A plan introduced by state Rep. Hank Vaupel, of Fowlerville, to improve access to health care for Michigan patients via telehealth was approved Wednesday by the House Ways & Means Committee.

Under current law, telemedicine visits between patients and health care providers must be done in real time. The bipartisan package of bills would change the law to allow patient data in the form of video and images to be stored and forwarded to providers.

“Access to health care has primarily been a hurdle for rural residents, but in the COVID-19 era, preventative and routine health care can be difficult for people in all parts of the state to access,” said Vaupel, who chairs the House Health Policy Committee. “This change will make telehealth possible in more scenarios as doctors will now have the time to thoroughly analyze data and test results and respond to patients at a later time.”

Barriers prior to the COVID-19 era included limited access to transportation and lack of available providers in a geographic area, which have both affected patients in Michigan’s rural communities. But now, in the height of the COVID-19 era, many patients are unable to access routine and preventative health care under the executive order, and others are too high-risk to leave their homes. Vaupel said increased use of telemedicine in Michigan is the answer.

Other bills in the package:

• Allow Medicaid to pay for telemedicine visits when a patient is at home or in school. Currently, a patient is required to go to a specific health facility to have a telehealth visit covered by Medicaid.
• Allow remote patient monitoring to be covered by Medicaid. This would allow doctors to analyze data gathered by patients using a monitoring device – such as blood sugar, blood pressure or their heart rate –when assessing the health of their patient during a telehealth visit.

House Bills 5412-5416 received unanimous support from the committee and now move to be further considered on the House floor.

Rep. Hank Vaupel testifies alongside fellow bill package sponsor Rep. Mary Whiteford before the House Ways and Means Committee.