(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — As the aggressive Covid-19 pathogen spreads across Tennessee, State Representative Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) and the House of Representatives continue to put our patients first by creating conservative health care solutions that increase access to high quality services, while lowering overall costs.
Before temporarily recessing on March 19, members approved House Bill 1699, sponsored by State Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) and co-sponsored by Rep. Terry with an 88-0 bi-partisan vote. This initiative paves the way to increase the electronic delivery of care in Tennessee through telemedicine. The legislation defines provider-based telemedicine by adding a private location that a patient deems appropriate to receive services. This bill has been carefully vetted to prioritize Tennessee patients having access to their own health providers.
“As Chairman of the House Insurance Committee and sponsor of this legislation, I believe this conservative solution to health care delivery in Tennessee will provide an extraordinary benefit to our citizens, whether in response to this virus pandemic or by meeting the needs of Tennessee patients in their homes or place or work,” said Rep. Smith. “It is an honor to partner with Speaker Sexton and Chairman Terry to utilize innovation and increase access to quality health services for more of our citizens through telemedicine.”
House Bill 1699 protects existing tele-health arrangements that do not require an existing doctor-patient relationship. It also creates a structure for all providers to use telemedicine with established patients who have been seen in their practice in the last 18 months for follow-up care at home, in their place of work or other mobile locations as long as the provider has access to the relevant public record. Chronically ill patients with ailments such as diabetes and congestive heart failure will benefit from the inclusion of remote patient monitoring which is currently a service provided by Medicare.
“This legislation will help many of our citizens who can’t visit a doctor’s office for a well visit or in a non-emergency situation to address an important health need,” said Rep. Terry. “Access and affordability are vital to our health care system and leveraging technology like telemedicine can help our Tennessee patients have improved health and outcomes.”
House Bill 1699 also includes a key provision for payment parity among doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants because providers and hospitals should be equally reimbursed by insurance companies for the services they provide. This measure, preceding the emergency actions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to prioritize telemedicine and its reimbursement during the Covid-19 outbreak, incorporates existing technology in the care of Tennesseans on an ongoing basis, leveraging successful outcomes already achieved in response to the urgent pandemic.
House Bill 1699 is a key component of the Republican CARE Plan, which is designed to transform health care in Tennessee through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients. First introduced in 2019, the plan uses free market concepts to reshape health care through patient-centered solutions that enable Tennesseans and their loved ones to make informed decisions about the type of care they need, not providers or insurance companies.
“The electronic delivery of specialized care through telemedicine will drastically improve patient safety by reducing the likelihood of Covid-19 exposure in the weeks and months ahead,” said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). “This innovative concept will also untangle our current monopolistic approach to health care in Tennessee by increasing access to resources – especially in our rural communities – so we can better serve citizens.”
Consultants who have recently conducted evaluations on several rural hospitals receiving grants under the Rural Hospital Transformation Act have also strongly endorsed this initiative. Under the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (TNECD) , the grant program funds evaluations of current practices being conducted at these facilities to ensure they are able to continue serving their communities. Telemedicine was cited by 92 percent of hospitals enrolled in the state program as an opportunity to sustain their rural hospital.
“Experts that have partnered with TNECD to evaluate our rural facilities believe a successful telemedicine program is a vital component to a sustainable business model,” added Chairman Smith. “Telemedicine aligns with the overall goal of the Rural Hospital Transformation Act, and I am pleased this tool will soon improve operational efficiency within more of our rural hospitals so they can continue to effectively address the unique needs in the communities they currently serve.”
Telemedicine has provided a tremendous benefit and safe alternatives to inpatient visits under the current circumstances. Utilizing this innovative tool will help continue to flatten the virus curve and reduce an anticipated surge of patients in Tennessee. House Bill 1699 will also ensure this effective tool remains a key part of health care delivery for all Tennesseans.
For more information about House Bill 1699, please click here.