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6/7/2016 Senate passes Sosnowski bill that mandates telemedicine coverage for islanders
STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) that would provide insurance coverage for islanders who make use of telemedicine technology.

The bill (2016-S 2756aa) would require insurers to provide coverage for the use of telecommunication services rendered to subscribers who reside on islands located within the state that are not connected to the mainland by any bridge or other structure.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration defines telemedicine as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.”

“What we’re talking about is secure video-conferencing, along with other monitoring technologies that can be used by physicians to treat patients remotely,” said Senator Sosnowski. “This is particularly important to patients who live in remote areas. In this state, it’s the residents of Block Island who often can’t handle a ferry trip to visit doctors on the mainland that benefit from this technology. The bill would apply to all residents who live on an island that inaccessible by bridge.”

The legislation would require health insurers to provide coverage for treatment provided through telemedicine to the extent that coverage is provided and paid for when provided through in-person consultation.

Over the past few decades, telemedicine has been largely viewed as a means to reach rural communities, which typically face additional barriers to accessing care, such as fewer providers and greater travel distances. However, telemedicine is increasingly being viewed more broadly as a way to reach multiple populations in different settings and to address various health care issues.

With its potential to overcome workforce and access barriers, telemedicine is also viewed as a means to reduce health disparities for aging and underserved populations, as well as reduce costs and burdens for patients associated with lost work time, transportation and child care.

“It’s always important for the law to keep up with new technologies,” said Senator Sosnowski. “And this is one of the most promising areas of medical communication. It is quickly changing the way health care is being delivered. For islanders, it can mean the difference between life and death.”

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2016-H 7161) has been introduced by Rep. Blake A. Filippi (I-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903