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Telehealth, also commonly known as telemedicine or virtual care, uses 21st century technology to deliver diagnostic and therapeutic health-related services remotely. It’s a commonsense, pro-consumer tool that can greatly expand access and lower costs through more efficient and cost-effective delivery of health care services to Alabamians.


The increased adoption of telemedicine during the pandemic has been a positive development. However, a telemedicine visit is not the same as an in-person visit. For some areas it is not as effective for the patient. Additionally, the costs incurred by the provider are less – and where there is an ability to save money, those savings should be realized by the customer.


The future positive impacts of telehealth across the state of Alabama very much depend on limiting harmful government mandates that imperil telehealth services.


  • In 2022 the Alabama Legislature passed SB272, now ACT No. 2022-302, setting up the appropriate regulatory framework for the practice of telemedicine in Alabama. Embedded in this legislation is the importance of in-person visits where telemedicine is not effective or appropriate. Employers applaud the legislature’s recognition of the impact telemedicine can have on our state and the cost savings it can provide while balancing a regulatory system that encourages its use.

  • What Alabama employers do not need is what’s known as “telemedicine payment parity” where patients are forced to pay the same amount for a telemedicine visit as an in-person visit. There are certainly times and conditions for which telemedicine is appropriate, but they are not the same as an in-person visit. When there are opportunities for savings in the healthcare delivery system, those should be realized by people paying the premiums – employees and employers!


  • Enables access to healthcare providers for populations who may not have had it before. Among other groups, this can include those with mobility issues, the elderly, anyone lacking reliable transportation, and people in more rural locations – of which Alabama has plenty.


  • There’s also the comfort, flexibility and convenience factor of being able to “visit” the doctor from home or on-the-go.


  • Additionally, there is substantial economic benefit to telehealth. Namely, there are fewer overhead costs for providers because the visits take place remotely. Expensive facilities, medical equipment, and a large staff simply aren’t needed when the provider is talking to the patient remotely.


  • In an ideal world, those cost savings are passed on to the consumer.


  • Burdensome government mandates pose the most serious threat to the viability of telehealth.


  • First, there are cost mandates which force you to pay the exact same for an in-person doctor’s visit as you would for a virtual doctor’s visit.


  • This nonsensically erodes what should be cost savings for patients by mandating that it stays in the pockets of hospitals and providers.


  • A cost mandate unfairly forces consumers to pay for the brick-and-mortar expenses that they simply don’t use during a telehealth visit. Virtual care doesn’t cost the same as in-person care to provide, and those savings should be passed on to Alabamians.


  • Next, there are coverage mandates. This would force you, through your insurance premiums, to cover (i.e. pay for) any healthcare service provided virtually if it’s covered in-person.


  • The problem with that? It ignores some of the very tangible and practical confines of telehealth.


  • There are also areas where mandating that your insurance premiums cover telehealth doesn’t make sense because the quality of an in-person visit simply cannot be matched virtually.

  • Dermatology, optometry, physical therapy, patient monitoring, ENT, and phlebotomy are just a handful of examples that could carry dangerous quality implications.


John Locke Foundation – Report: The Case Against Telemedicine Parity Laws




Commonwealth Foundation - Telemedicine: What Should the Post-Pandemic Regulatory and Payment Landscape Look Like?

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