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Politics & Government

Bill looks to address telemedicine insurance gaps

Beebe Medical Center

State lawmakers are looking to bring equity between long distance medical treatment and traditional doctors visits – at least when it comes to insurance payments.

Rep. Bryon Short (D-Highland Woods) is trying to require insurance companies to consider remote treatment options the same as a typical doctor’s visit in terms of reimbursement.

Short says private plans that don’t cover telemedicine might force those living in rural areas to drive significant distances to get treated, which might dissuade them from seeing a doctor at all.

“It’s very important that folks that have health needs that they go and get those health needs addressed. Otherwise, it becomes much worse and much more costly,” said Short.

Telemedicine services are already being used in Delaware, despite the lack of parity between the new technology and traditional office visits.

Marge Fleming-Smith, assistant state director for the Parkinson’s Action Network, says her husband, who has Parkinson’s Disease, already pays for costly insurance premiums, but they don’t cover his treatment from remote locations.

She says those premiums have forced her family to live more frugally.

“He pays $932 a month and I pay $300 of my own. So from that, we’ve cut down our lifestyle and it’s not just the medical that you have to pay," said Fleming-Smith. "Parkinson’s Disease is a very expensive disease. Last year, we spent $12,000 of our own money.”

Flemming-Smith adds if passed, the legislation would be a “life saver.”

Under Short’s bill, any doctor or specialist eligible for telemedical services would need to be approved by Delaware state officials.