Rep. David Bentz has introduced House Bill 160, the Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act, which would consolidate and streamline the rules governing telemedicine in Delaware to ensure that Delawareans continue to have access to remote health care even after the COVID-19 pandemic that made these services essential has faded. The bill permanently codifies key provisions of emergency legislation enacted last summer that expanded the availability of telehealth services for Delawareans in response to the pandemic. Those provisions are set to expire on July 1.
According to the Delaware Health Information Network, demand for telehealth services exploded in the spring and summer of last year. The number of telehealth-related insurance claims jumped from several hundred per month statewide in recent years to a peak of more than 40,000 claims per month in April and May of 2020.
This bill also would place Delaware into an interstate compact to help ease the administrative burden of practicing medicine in multiple states. New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are already either in the compact or on their way to joining as well. With the current shortage of primary care physicians in Delaware, this bill could be a very important stepping stone.
|House Bill 160 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Bentz, Briggs King, Heffernan, Baumbach, Brady, Bush, Griffith, Morrison, Osienski, Shupe, M.Smith, Spiegelman, K.Williams|
|S.McBride, Brown, Townsend, Gay, Hansen, Lopez, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola, Walsh|
|Current Status — Out of Committee 4/21/21|
“Throughout the pandemic, telemedicine has been critical to the delivery of health care services for thousands of Delawareans — from routine check-ups to specialist care for people with chronic conditions,” said Rep. Bentz, who chairs the House Health & Human Development Committee. “By necessity, we’ve learned that telehealth services are an extremely efficient way to deliver health care and make it more convenient and accessible for people from all walks of life. We need to make sure those services remain in place going forward.”
“In a state where 1 in 5 residents are seniors and 40 percent of our neighbors live in an area with a shortage of primary care doctors, we need to be doing everything we can to make it easier for people to schedule visits with their health care providers,” said Sen. Sarah McBride, chair of the Senate Health Committee and Senate prime sponsor of HB 160. “We’ve all seen what an effective and efficient tool telemedicine can be during this pandemic, especially for working families and our neighbors in rural communities. I commend Rep. Bentz for advancing legislation to make it a permanent part of the health care resources available to all Delawareans.”
“All Delawareans deserve high-quality, affordable health care,” Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend said. “That begins with us making sure Delaware has enough health care professionals to meet their needs and removing impediments that may be keeping our neighbors from accessing the critical care they need. This measure sponsored by Rep. Bentz is an important step in achieving those goals and I look forward to passing it into law this year.”