BOSTON – State Representatives Jack Patrick Lewis (Framingham), Maria Robinson (Framingham), and Carmine Gentile (Sudbury) joined their colleagues in passing H.4916, An Act to promote resilience in our health care system, last month.
The bill provides funding for community hospitals while ensuring access to healthcare services through telemedicine in the midst of Covid-19, including an extension of mandated coverage of Covid-19 emergency and in-patient services through July 2021.
The bill has been assigned a Conference Committee with the Senate and is awaiting a final conference report.
“Telehealth services continue to be an essential resource during the pandemic,” said Rep. Gentile. “I am proud to support this bill which seeks to ensure that Telehealth services remain affordable and available for those of us who need them.”
The bill dictates that telehealth coverage must be provided for primary care services, behavioral health, and chronic disease management for at-home patients, and for services delivered by a wide range of technologies, including audio-only calls. It requires telehealth services to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services. Furthermore, the bill allows healthcare providers to utilize telemedicine when communicating with other providers or patients in medical facilities. It also instructs the Health Policy Commissions to make recommendations on future telehealth services for at-home use.
“With Massachusetts leading the way in telehealth use across the country, it only makes sense to integrate this essential resource into our healthcare system for an extended period of time,” added Rep. Robinson.
In addition to providing telemedicine services, this bill allows the Secretary for Health and Human Services to directly pay community hospitals. These hospitals are often the best source of healthcare in Gateway cities and one of the few institutions that can effectively contribute to the economy in these uncertain times. Through H.4916, the United States Department of Health and Human services can distribute Medicaid payments equal to 5% of a hospital’s total MassHealth payments in the previous fiscal year.
“This pandemic has required changes to all aspects of our lives, professional and personal,” said Rep. Lewis. “While we are far from the end of this pandemic, it is important that we embrace positive changes to our daily lives, including telehealth services.”
Press release submitted to SOURCE. Photo from the CDC.