Doctor! Doctor!
Feb 15, 2017


A bill introduced in the Washington State Senate (S.B. 5355) would require the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to pay for telemedicine services provided to injured workers. The measure would require the state's monopolistic insurance program to reimburse hospitals, doctors' offices, and mental health centers for using interactive audio and video equipment to consult, diagnose and treat injured workers. The bill would also require the department to create a fee schedule for telemedicine services. If S.B. 5355 is successful, Washington would be the fourth state to establish a reimbursement schedule for telemedicine in workers' compensation.



This week, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) highlighted decades of evidence-based research surrounding the complex and evolving telemedicine policy landscape for health care in the United States. In the first of its two reports, the ATA focused on variable reimbursement and coverage. In the second report, the ATA looked at the complex policy landscape of 50 states with 50 different telemedicine policies and compared physician practice standards for telemedicine for every state. The ATA documents the incremental and complex steps providers, payers and patients must take in navigating this emerging medical service.



This week in Austin, Texas, lawmakers reached a legislative compromise to a protracted dispute between the medical community and regulatory bodies that would allow virtual visits to go forward under specific rules. Under a draft bill championed by the chair of the Texas Senate's Committee on Health and Human Services, a valid practitioner-patient relationship would be considered to exist between a telemedicine provider and a patient whom he or she had not previously treated in person if the telemedicine practitioner met certain requirements. Across the Red River in Little Rock, S.B. 146 is advancing to expand the scope of telemedicine for health care in Arkansas. Under this legislation, telemedicine could be legally practiced beyond official clinical settings, wherever the patient resides, via cellular telephone.



Confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services last week, Rep. Tom Price, MD, (R-Ga.), faced questions during his confirmation hearing about the future of telemedicine. Secretary Price called telemedicine an "exciting innovation" that can improve better access to care, and confided to the Senate that clinicians often assume telemedicine costs to help patients. We'll be watching the legislative and regulatory developments in telemedicine this session.

Florida Workers' Compensation


The Florida 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments next Wednesday about whether regulators approved a 14.5 percent rate increase in September in without proper open meetings and in violation of Florida's Sunshine Law. This is a second judicial attack on the rate increase the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), filed with the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) after the state's high court ruled last year that two parts of the system - including a limit on attorney fees - were unconstitutional. The Florida legislative session opens on March 7th, which will be the final legislative session for Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. CFO Atwater announced he will be stepping down, after seventeen years in Tallahassee, this May.



In advance of the legislative session, the Florida House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss a variety of possible solutions to escalating worker's compensation premiums, including testimony on the attorney fees in disputed comp claims. Insurance industry leadership applauded the continuing efforts on the part of the committee to take testimony about the lasting effects of workers' compensation rates and legislation on Florida businesses and workers. We're zeroed in on Florida this year.

Making Our Way Around The Country


A Texas district court upheld the U.S. Department of Labor fiduciary rule, an investor protection rule of the Obama administration, effective this April 10th. The case, U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Department of Labor (DOL), sought to vacate the fiduciary rule and associated regulations over the market for retirement investment advice. Under an interim secretary's leadership, the DOL of the Trump Administration issued a proposed rulemaking that would delay the regulation's effective date for 180 days. That proposal has various comment periods as short as 15 days.



Staying with retirement, a California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the 115th Congress. In its final months, the Obama Administration approved this state-run approach. Lawmakers in Washington are moving to block California and other states from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans.



The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued its first ever guiding principles for marijuana businesses to address occupational health and hazards. The nearly 80-page report identifies potential hazards unique to each job - including exposure to mold, pesticides, gases and even instances of workplace violence. The guide was developed by the Colorado Marijuana Occupational Health and Safety Work Group, a more than 40-member committee with expertise in areas such as public health, safety, regulations and medicine.



We are celebrating birthdays here in the Prairie State this month. And for those of us lucky enough to call the Land of Lincoln home, we hold a special place for the eloquence of the 16th President of the United States. As Abraham Lincoln concisely reminds us in his famed Second Inaugural Address, let us strive to finish the important work we are in, with malice toward none and with charity for all.

About The Way

The Way is Gallagher Bassett's weekly governmental briefing on state and federal affairs that affect our industry. We thank you for starting your Wednesday morning with us. Please be sure to follow #GBTheWay for additional news and updates as we make our way throughout the country on the issues affecting our industry. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the authors, Greg McKenna or Cari Miller, directly.


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