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Governor Signs Telehealth Reform Bill

Yesterday Governor Nixon signed MARHC's priority telehealth language into law as part of SB 579, sponsored by Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph). This bill will expand opportunities to serve patients via telehealth in Missouri. Telehealth can be used to improve patient access by reducing barriers to care like geographic distance and the cost of travel. This is especially critical in rural areas, which often lack specialists.

This language, originally sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington) and Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) authorizes providers to offer services through telehealth as long as they are within their scope of practice and the standard of care is equal to a face-to-face encounter. Many pharmacists stopped filling prescriptions ordered through telehealth since it is not authorized in statute. SB 579 permits telehealth prescriptions to be ordered and filled.

Commercial carriers currently must cover services delivered through synchronous, or real-time, telehealth if they would cover that service provided face-to-face. This bill requires coverage of store-and-forward telehealth, which is sending patient information to a consulting provider without real-time communication.

SB 579 reforms Mo HealthNet’s telehealth policies by authorizing homes, schools, and Child Advocacy Centers to be originating sites. It also lists providers in rural health clinics as eligible distant site providers, which will create additional opportunities for RHCs to serve patients. Additionally, the bill creates a pilot Medicaid telemonitoring program to cover services that monitor patients’ health data from home.

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