Evers signs ‘telehealth’ bill

    Gov. Tony Evers, seated, after signing Act 56, which expands Medicaid coverage for health care delivered remotely. Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), right.

    Medicaid patients who get medical or behavioral health care delivered long-distance now qualify for coverage under a bill that Gov. Tony Evers signed Monday.

    The bipartisan bill, SB 380, passed the state Senate and the Assembly earlier this fall.

    In signing the legislation at Richland Center Hospital, Evers said it would offer expanded options for obtaining treatment, especially for patients in rural communities that lack enough providers. The bill envisions connecting patients with providers through the internet or other forms of remote communication.

    “Telehealth expansion will pave the way to significantly increase access to health care professionals including behavioral health care professionals,” said Andrea Palm, secretary-designee at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in a statement released by the governor’s office. “This is especially important for people who struggle with substance use disorders. Because of this legislation, patients can now receive treatment remotely.”

    The bill requires the state Medicaid program, which covers about 1 million people, to reimburse telehealth services in the same way it reimburses  services delivered in person. It also requires Medicaid to cover the same telehealth services that Medicare covers.

    The bill removes requirements that telehealth providers in behavioral health and substance disorder fields get special certification. It allows patients to connect remotely with providers from home, school, or other non-clinical locations, ending restrictions in payment based on where the patient is located.

    Erik Gunn
    Erik Gunn reports and writes on work, the economy, health care & policy, and related subjects for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. At the Examiner office first thing in the morning, he's the one with YoutTube on streaming Springsteen concerts, 1970s Americana rock and the occasional British Progressive music cuts in between model railroad how-to clips. So far his campaign to build an HO layout in the our office conference space has produced only pats on the head and eyerolls from his colleagues, but he loves them anyway.