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Governor Vetoes Pennsylvania Telemedicine Legislation

Today, Governor Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 857, Pennsylvania’s comprehensive telemedicine legislation. On April 21, the state Senate approved the legislation, sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), after lengthy debate and a party-line vote. Much of the debate reflected concerns with a provision inserted by the House of Representatives last November. The provision memorializes and limits the use of telemedicine for certain drugs that appear on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) list, which includes an early pregnancy abortion-inducing drug.

In a statement last week, HAP highlighted the necessity of telemedicine and its applications during the COVID-19 pandemic which has allowed patients to access routine medical care, specialty services, and initial screening for COVID-19 testing.

“I want to thank the insurers who have stepped up to provide meaningful reimbursement for telemedicine services during the governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration,” stated Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO. “We should all remember that the official end of the disaster declaration, once we reach that point, will not mark the end of the health crisis, nor does it mean the demand for health care via telemedicine will cease. The health care landscape has been forever changed.”

HAP believes that Pennsylvanians will demand that telemedicine be a part of their “new normal.” In order for health care to provide this service, there must be adequate reimbursement from insurers that makes the use of this technology feasible and sustainable. HAP and other stakeholders will work with lawmakers and the Administration to find common ground and common sense legislation to get the job done.

Senate Bill 857 would have memorialized important definitions, expanded insurance coverage and reimbursement to providers, and provided consumer protections for telemedicine.

For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.

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