Proposed pro-telemedicine policies stalled in Arkansas

By Heather Mack
04:10 pm
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In Arkansas, currently the only state in the nation that does not allow telemedicine companies like Teladoc or American Well to treat patients, a proposed telemedicine rule that would have made remote visits more permissible was stalled when a key legislative panel declined to sign off, Politico's Morning eHealth reported.
 
Arkansas is ranked last in the nation in telemedicine practice standards, according to the American Telemedicine Association. The legislature and Governor Asa Hutchinson enacted the legislation, which would have allowed Arkansas physicians to treat patients remotely with video and audio visits in some circumstances, under requirements from Act 887 of 2015. The state's medical board had voted last month to approve the proposed regulations.
 
But during a joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor, the motion to review two proposed telemedicine regulations failed after some members raised concerns about whether the state medical board had made significantly large, last-minute changes to one of the regulations without sufficient transparency.
 
According to the Arkansas Times Record, the state’s Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the State Legislative Council discussed proposed regulations last week, but referred them to the public health committees following the testimony of Bradley Phillips, a lobbyist representing Dallas-based telemedicine company Teladoc. In Arkansas, proposed state regulations need legislative approval, but the public health commitees involved failed to secure it, claiming the state medical board’s proposal did not align with their legislative intent.
 
Philips said that language about store-and-forward technology, which had been approved by the Medical Board at the last minute, had been changed after a public comment period had ended, and the change was substantive enough to warrant a new public-comment period.
 
However, the committees made amendments afterward without submitting for public comment, and the board claims it would have opposed the amendment, as laid out in the letter to the Arkansas Legislative Council. Fifteen groups, including employers, patient advocates and Teladoc wrote the Arkansas Legislative Council.
 
“It is an amendment that our organizations would have opposed, if given the opportunity to do so, because of its restrictive effects on telemedicine’s ability to expand access to the wide variety of patient, business and community interests for which we advocate,” the letter states. “Further, it is unclear if the Board overstepped its authority by further defining a term already addressed in existence.”

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