Florida has struggled to find a path to telemedicine parity for the past three or four years. Stymied by opposition in the last legislative session, lawmakers punted in 2016, creating a statewide Telehealth Advisory Committee to develop recommendations. The committee has submitted a preliminary report, and it concluded that the biggest barrier was parity. Now, House Bill 7011 appears to be the vehicle that can cross the legislative finish line.
The Florida House Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing on the bill on Wednesday, April 5th. Representative Cary Pigman, MD - the main sponsor of the measure - presented it to the committee and then answered questions from committee members.
During his presentation, Dr. Pigman addressed some of the barriers to telemedicine in Florida, including the absence of any requirement for private payers to reimburse physicians for clinical telemedicine encounters with patients at the same rate as in-person visits. The bill will not require out-of-state physicians to hold a Florida medical license to practice telemedicine with Florida patients. Dr. Pigman was asked about that.
And Dr. Pigman said the Florida Health Department will verify that telemedicine physicians do hold valid licenses in other states. Out-of-state licensees would be bound by the statutes and rules in Florida as if they were physically present and practicing in the state. The bill also provides for a tax credit for private payers to incentivize telemedicine.
In response to another question, Dr. Pigman stated that the proposed bill would not modify the standard of care for telemedicine. There would be no limitation in the cognitive process in statute, but natural limitations due to the technology. So, for example he said, one would not expect a physician to remove a patient's gall bladder via telemedicine.
By an 11 to 4 vote, the House Ways and Means Committee gave HB 7011 a do-pass recommendation. It now moves on to the House Health and Human Services Committee.