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Senate advances telemedicine payments

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State lawmakers aren’t sure whether they will expand Medicaid coverage, but if they do, they support at least one new tool to help health care providers care for the expected influx of new patients: telemedicine.

The Indiana Senate voted unanimously last week to require the Indiana Medicaid program to pay home health agencies, rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers for doing medical consultations, diagnoses and monitoring using videoconferencing, telephones or computers.

The move could open up greater access to specialist physicians, especially psychiatrists, in medically underserved areas, Kathy Norris, a fiscal analyst at the Legislative Services Agency, noted in a report on the bill. And it could save the state money, if it no longer has to pay for as much travel by health care providers to reach far-flung patients, Norris added.

While nearly every other industry has engaged in more communication at a distance in the past decade, health care has not made that transition because doctors are typically paid only when they see patients face to face.

“The technology is there. But reimbursement is lagging behind,” said Don Kelso, executive director of the Indiana Rural Health Association.

Mike Ripley, a lobbyist for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said his organization favors the bill because it could help the state deal with a rising number of patients.

“With an increasing demand on primary physician services, this provides a cost-effective means of providing services to the Medicaid population,” Ripley wrote in a legislative update on Friday.

President Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act called for all states to expand their Medicaid programs for the poor by raising eligibility to all adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit.

In Indiana, such an expansion would bring in more than 400,000 new people, according to estimates by Milliman Inc., the Seattle-based actuarial firm hired by the state.

Since consumers with insurance tend to use about twice as much health care services as those without insurance, the Medicaid expansion is expected to strain the ability of doctors, nurses and hospitals to care for the newly insured patients.

The measure, Senate Bill 554, is co-authored by Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville; Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg; and Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

Also last week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 551, which instructs the state government to seek a federal block grant to expand Medicaid coverage via the Healthy Indiana Plan or a program similar to it. It is unclear if the Obama administration will OK such a grant.

 

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  1. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  2. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

  3. Good try, Mr. Irwin, but I think we all know the primary motivation for pursuing legal action against the BMV is the HUGE FEES you and your firm expect to receive from the same people you claim to be helping ~ taxpayers! Almost all class action lawsuits end up with the victim receiving a pittance and the lawyers receiving a windfall.

  4. Fix the home life. We're not paying for your child to color, learn letters, numbers and possible self control. YOU raise your children...figure it out! We did. Then they'll do fine in elementary school. Weed out the idiots in public schools, send them well behaved kids (no one expects perfection) and watch what happens! Oh, and pray. A mom.

  5. To clarify, the system Cincinnati building is just a streetcar line which is the cheapest option for rail when you consider light rail (Denver, Portland, and Seattle.) The system (streetcar) that Cincy is building is for a downtown, not a city wide thing. With that said, I think the bus plan make sense and something I shouted to the rooftops about. Most cities with low density and low finances will opt for BRT as it makes more financial and logistical sense. If that route grows and finances are in place, then converting the line to a light rail system is easy as you already have the protected lanes in place. I do think however that Indy should build a streetcar system to connect different areas of downtown. This is the same thing that Tucson, Cincy, Kenosha WI, Portland, and Seattle have done. This allows for easy connections to downtown POI, and allows for more dense growth. Connecting the stadiums to the zoo, convention center, future transit center, and the mall would be one streetcar line that makes sense.

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