Proposed Bill Addresses Use of Telemedicine in NJ
As of 11/3, a proposed 53-page bill is being read by the Senate that will define telemedicine according to NJ state law. Aspects of telemedicine have already been introduced in elder care facilities, among other locations. Once the proposed bill is passed, three very important questions will finally have official answers:
- Who is eligible to participate?
- What technology can be used?
- How will the costs of these services be covered?
Physicians in the Garden State have been among the nation’s few remaining holdouts when it comes to fully accepting the practice, which involves the use of videoconferencing to connect providers and patients. Their chief concern has been maintaining the same quality of care as traditional, in-person visits. As a result, leading telemedicine firms are placing greater emphasis on the physicians they employ, professionals intent on maintaining that level of quality. Between this impending law and rapidly advancing technology, NJ is set to join 48 other states in establishing telemedicine within its borders.
On a national level, healthcare institutions are adopting telemedicine. However, government institutions are playing catch-up. According to the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is already testing Medicare pilot projects for telemedicine. Most of the previously mentioned 48 states already use Medicaid to cover some e-health treatments. Of those states, 32 require insurance companies to pay for telemedicine at the same rate they use for traditional, in-person visits. The bill reflects changes requested by organizations that represent physicians so this may be a form of validation.
State by state, the spread of telemedicine has depended on the existence of overarching policies. Regulatory guidelines have to be in place before telemedicine providers and investors are willing to set up shop. Patients who find that they are not covered by their insurance will certainly not endorse the practice.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a long list of healthcare professionals awaits authorization for diagnosing and treating patients with certain electronic technology:
- Physician assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Clinical social workers
- Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts
- Mental health screeners
State lawmakers, nursing groups want to make sure NJ health-safety standards are maintained
TwT Two-way videoconferencing and remote monitoring are the primary technologies they will be expected to use. However, audio-only telephone, e-mail, text and instant messaging are not authorized for patient care purposes.
- Out-of-state doctors can treat patients as long as they hold a reciprocal medical license.
- Medicaid, NJ Family Care and private plans that cover public employees must pay for telemedicine treatment at the same rate as traditional care.
- Managed care plans must cover telemedicine treatments at the same reimbursement level they pay for in-person care.
- No plan is allowed to require an in-person visit before becoming eligible for telemedicine coverage.
The bill, referred to in the Senate as S-291, was introduced in January of this year. Represented by the Medical Society of New Jersey, physicians have made their concerns known. Changes have been requested and implemented. Minimal cost to the state, improved access to healthcare and optimum outcomes for patients with chronic diseases comprise the foundation for the future of telemedicine in the state of New Jersey.