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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. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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