Stay in Teladoc-Texas Medical Board case could presage a settlement

By Jonah Comstock

Teladoc and the Texas Medical Board have asked for, and received, a stay in their ongoing lawsuit. The case will resume in Western Texas District Court on April 19, 2017.

The case, which concerns whether anti-telemedicine regulations levvied by the board constitute a violation of antitrust laws, was set to resume after the board withdrew an appeal to the Fifth Circuit court. But both parties filed a joint motion saying that "the Parties believe that it would be most efficient and cost effective to stay this proceeding for 150 days".

Texas Medical Board didn't reply to a request for comment. But Teladoc told MobiHealthNews in an email that "requesting the stay signals a willingness to discuss settlement."

"Teladoc has always wanted to settle its disputes with the TMB in a way that preserves quality and affordable health care for all Texans, including our 3 million members in Texas," the company said in a statement.

Teladoc, which offers remote medical visits, sued the TMB in state court way back in April 2015, alleging that because the board was made up of practicing doctors with a financial interest in limiting telemedicine, the board's passing of anti-telemedicine legislation constituted a violation of antitrust laws. But the medical board filed a motion asking for the suit to be dismissed on the grounds that there is, in fact, state supervision of the medical board which would make it a state agency under law and therefore immune to suit. When the judge denied the motion, the medical board appealed to the Fifth Circuit court. 

The Fifth Circuit court never ruled on the appeal, but a glut of friend-of-the-court briefs rolled in to the higher court, including one from the FTC itself in support of Teladoc. Those briefs prompted a "strategic retreat" from the Texas Medical Board, which withdrew the appeal. In the year and a half that the case has been going on, it's worth noting that TMB has had a leadership change and state-level legislation has been proposed that could undercut the board's rules anyway, both signs that TMB might also consider a settlement at this point.