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– Wisconsin has joined the growing number of states boosting telehealth access for residents in the state Medicaid program.

Governor Tony Evers this week signed SB 380, introduced in September by more than two dozen legislators, which establishes definitions for telehealth and requires Medicaid to reimburse for a wide range of connected health services, including asynchronous (store-and-forward) services, remote patient monitoring and “brief communication technology-based services.”

The new law excludes audio-only telephone, fax and e-mail from the definition of a telehealth service, but also indicates the state may develop reimbursement guidelines for those services. It also prevents the Medicaid program from denying coverage based on the recipient’s location or requiring additional certification or other qualifications for coverage.

“Telehealth is increasingly being utilized to improve access to essential care, but state laws are not keeping pace with advances in technology,” State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, one of the original sponsors of the bill, said in a press release following its passage by both chambers in November. “Medicaid recipients and providers are currently unable to leverage telehealth’s true potential and we want to change that.”

The bill went through several amendments before passage, reflecting the divisive nature of efforts to compel insurers to cover telehealth services at the same rate as they would in-person services. The final bill does not mandate payment parity.

Nevertheless, it puts Wisconsin into a growing pool of states expanding telehealth and mHealth services to populations who face barriers to access.

“When patients have access to health care services like telehealth technologies, it reduces the number of costly emergency room visits and lowers insurance costs for everyone in our state.” Senator Jennifer Shilling said in a press release issued by the Senate Democrats following Evers’ signing of the bill. “This bill is critical for improving better health outcomes and expanding coverage for rural communities that have limited access to specialty care.”

Source: Wisconsin Governor Signs Bill Expanding Medicaid’s Telehealth Coverage