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Telemedicine bill stalls out in Senate committee

By Jack Weatherly

A telemedicine bill that sailed through the Mississippi House of Representatives did not make it out of Senate committee in time to be voted on in this session of the Legislature.

House Bill 1178 was designed to modernize rules for the practice of telemedicine beyond the one-page law passed in 1997.

The latest legislation was strongly opposed by the Mississippi State Medical Association, which represents approximately 70 percent of the physicians in the state.

Association President Dr. Dan Edney condemned the legislation as “terrible,” saying it would “blindfold” telemedicine physicians by not requiring video conferencing.

The bill allows video conferencing, but does not mandate it, leaving it up to the physician.

Claudia Tucker, vice president of government affairs for Teladoc Inc., which strongly supported the bill, said that “I just think the Senate ran out of time.” Teladoc offers its services in 49 states.

It was in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, is chairman of the committee. He did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday night about the bill.

Tucker said she “was really heartened by the support the bill got.” The business community came out for the bill, and advocacy groups “showed amazing support.”

Not so from the medical association, which she said was “spreading falsehoods” about the measure. An effort to contact Edney was unsuccessful Tuesday night.

Tucker said: “Politics are a rough and tumble business.”

In a related matter, Dr. Virginia Crawford, interim director of the state Board of Medical Licensure, said that a long-awaited economic impact statement for telemedicine rules that the board had filed with the secretary of state’s office in March 2015 is still being compiled by the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University.

Teladoc insisted that the study accompany the rules, which the board has since put on hold.

The board said last August that it thought it might have the study ready for its meeting the next month.

It pulled its rules from consideration by the Secretary of State. Meantime the telemedicine measure was introduced for the current session of the Legislature.

Tucker said she is confident there is ample support to reintroduce legislation in January.

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