Telemedicine 'infrastructure' bill passes Pennsylvania Senate again

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Six months after Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto , the Pennsylvania Senate approved a bill Tuesday that again codifies telemedicine “infrastructure.”

Senate Bill 705 passed 46-4 and appears to leave out restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs. This after a similar provision torpedoed a prior measure in April.

“No one was even remotely aware of COVID-19 and the impact that it could have on our society when I first introduced this bill,” Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver, said. “But, if we take nothing else away from this pandemic, we now fully understand the critical need for this tool.”

The bill establishes a definition for telemedicine and clarifies insurance coverage for services rendered remotely. Vogel said it will lower costs and expand access, especially for residents living in rural regions of the state.

“This bill is about building the infrastructure for telemedicine,” Vogel said. “It’s about establishing who gets paid for what and how to affordably increase the access to health care.”

The measure leaves out language from the vetoed Senate Bill 857 that banned doctors from prescribing more than 60 medications on the Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) list, including mifepristone, commonly used for abortions.

Wolf said in April he supported a prior vision of the bill that didn’t “arbitrarily” impose such restrictions or “interfere with women's health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians.”

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