In March, Governor Scott signed HB7087 (Ch. 2016-240) creating the Florida Telehealth Advisory Council. Florida TaxWatch, which has been promoting the advancement of telehealth for years, attended the Council’s inaugural meeting on Tuesday, October 18. The assemblage of the Council fell to Former AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip and they succeeded admirably in collecting an impressively credentialed, diverse group of experts. The Council is chaired by Justin Senior, Interim Secretary of AHCA and members include nurses, physicians, long-term care providers, rural health experts, hospital representatives, insurance representatives, and telehealth vendors and developers. Members include nurses, physicians, long-term care providers, rural health experts, hospital representatives, insurance representatives, and telehealth vendors and developers. While passage of comprehensive telehealth legislation years ago would have been preferable, the Council seems committed to moving telehealth forward in our state.
Representative Travis Cummings and Senator Aaron Bean, both telehealth supporters, opened the meeting by reiterating their support and introducing Council members. Introductions were followed by a review of Sunshine laws and an overview of the various definitions of telehealth. In their discussion of goals, Council members touched upon many issues highlighted in various TaxWatch publications including the need to address quality and standards of care issues, practitioner licensure issues, the need to refrain from limiting practice settings and type of practitioners, reimbursement mechanisms, fraud potential, and metrics of success.
Ahead of this inaugural meeting, ACHA, DOH, and the Office of Insurance Regulation have been busy collecting survey data from facilities, practitioners, insurers, and health maintenance organizations regarding their use of telehealth. The Council intends to use their collective expertise along with survey results to make policy recommendations.
Florida TaxWatch has produced three reports centering on the issue of telehealth in our state. In our most recent report, data show that the use of telehealth would result in a savings of $200 million in Medicaid costs, and billions more via avoided hospitalizations. Further, in its June 30, 2016 Final Report, the Government Efficiency Task Force recommends that the Legislature remove the remaining disincentives and barriers to the use of telehealth services as a way to increase assess to healthcare and avoid future costs. The Task Force concluded that, if reducing the remaining barriers to telehealth could reduce healthcare costs by a modest ten percent, Florida taxpayers would save more than $13 billion annually.
Aside from the cost savings, telehealth has the potential to improve access to healthcare services in rural and underserved communities and meet the growing need for additional mental health and specialist care. Telehealth is perfectly poised to help our beleaguered healthcare system meet the “triple aim” of improving health, increasing patient satisfaction, and lowering healthcare costs. TaxWatch applauds the efforts of the Council and looks forward to following their progress over the next year.