Lawmakers seek to reinstate telehealth rules waived during COVID-19 pandemic

by | Feb 20, 2023



  • The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved a bill on Monday that would allow telehealth appointments to be provided through telephone calls.
  • The bill officially removes a provision within the legal definition of the term telehealth that excludes audio-only telehealth phone calls.
  • The legislation would also allow Medicaid to elect to reimburse for such consultations and appointments.
  • Committee members spoke in support of the bill, noting the advantages of using telehealth services.

The Senate Health Policy Committee has unanimously approved Senate Bill 298, filed by Sen. Jim Boyd. The bill, if adopted, would allow telehealth appointments to be provided through telephone calls.

The bill officially removes a provision in the legal definition of the term telehealth that excludes audio-only telehealth phone calls. Boyd’s legislation would also allow Medicaid to elect to reimburse for such consultations and appointments.

“This not only helps in a general sense but also helps those in rural areas and communities where it’s cost-effective and convenient,” Boyd told the committee. “Some don’t have the ability in some of those communities for the video conferencing like you might have in larger communities.”

During the committee hearing, Sen. Boyd stated that the bill would not only help in a general sense but also benefit rural areas and communities where video conferencing is not always available. The bill aims to reinstate telehealth rules that were waived during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Florida, telehealth has grown in popularity, especially during the pandemic. Upon COVID-19’s mass outbreak, state leaders allowed Floridians to access telehealth appointments through audio-only conversations. However, the telehealth waiver ended in June 2021.

Committee members spoke in support of the bill, including Sen. Gayle Harrell, who said, “We’ve seen the tremendous advantage of using telehealth, and to be able to do it now using just a phone, a lot of folks don’t have the capability to do it otherwise, especially with broadband in rural areas being the problem. This is the next step. I’m so glad we’ve learned the lesson during COVID.”

“The whole intimidation of being online on a computer can be very intimidating for a lot of elderly people,” said Sen. Tracie Davis. “This allows them to communicate with their doctor. This allows them to be able to schedule an appointment and get medicine as needed before it becomes a crisis, so thank you.”

The bill also received signatures of support from several prominent groups including Lee Memorial Health System, the Florida Hospital Association, and the American Diabetes Association.

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