HD1829: Advancing telemedicine in Massachusetts

Massachusetts telehealth legislationJudy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This post is a frank call to action. Massachusetts is one of the few remaining states in the country that does not provide coverage for telemedicine services through its Medicaid program, and credentialing and reimbursement issues have helped limit the expansion of telehealth programs at Boston Children’s Hospital and beyond.

That could change. Legislation supported by Boston Children’s Office of Government Relations, filed on January 16, includes a bill that would advance and expand access to telemedicine services across the Commonwealth. The bill, HD1829, would allow clinicians to be credentialed to provide telemedicine services within their scopes of practice, and allow for coverage of telemedicine services by all private payers and Medicaid.

Telemedicine has the potential to drive innovations in care delivery that truly bend the cost curve, augment the skill sets of community care teams and make our patients’ lives better. At Boston Children’s alone, telemedicine is helping care for newborns with retinopathy of prematurity in the community, sparing home-ventilated patients from hospital visits, and even allowing for lifesaving rescues.

Reimbursement has been a major barrier to using telemedicine services more widely, as have state regulations limiting providers’ ability to provide telehealth visits to out-of-state residents.

A lot can change as the bill travels through different committees, but the hope is that if this bill is passed, practitioners licensed in Massachusetts will be able to join interstate licensure compacts and practice telemedicine across state lines when appropriate.

Friday, January 30 is the deadline for gathering state lawmakers to cosponsor the bill. What you can do:

  1. Click here to view summaries of Boston Children’s priority legislation. HD1829 is first on the list.
  2. Go wheredoivotema.com to find your State Senator and State Representative.
  3. Call your State Senator and State Representative and tell them you are a constituent, and ask them to cosponsor HD1829to ensure that all kids have access to quality telemedicine services in Massachusetts. Make sure to tell them the docket number (HD1829) and Sponsor (State Representative John Scibak).
  4. Follow up with an email, or just send the email in lieu of calling.
  5. While you’re on the email page, consider joining the Children’s Advocacy Network to support future initiatives affecting kids.

For more information about this bill or others on the hospital’s state legislative agenda, email Kathryn.Audette@childrens.harvard.edu.