Telehealth an important tool to respond to COVID-19, generally improves health of Alaskans
JUNEAU – The Alaska Senate today voted 17-to-2 in favor of a bill that requires state regulated private health insurers to cover telehealth services.
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) is the sponsor of House Bill 29, which already passed the House of Representatives. The bill will return to the House for a concurrence vote because the Senate amended the bill to become effective immediately in response to the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Once HB29 passes the Legislature, the bill will head to the governor for final approval.
While there is currently no evidence of COVID-19 in Alaska, the State of Alaska is closely monitoring the outbreak as 35 other states and the District of Columbia already have cases of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Access to telehealth is one important tool to respond to COVID-19, and will generally improve the health of Alaskans in rural and urban communities.
“Alaska is at the forefront of providing telehealth services in urban, rural, aging, and underserved communities across our state,” Representative Spohnholz said. “These successes are, however, largely limited to people insured through Medicaid and the Tribal health system. HB29 brings the benefits of telehealth to people covered by private plans and increases Alaskans’ access to better, faster healthcare. Its passage is timely because telehealth is an important tool for responding to COVID-19 by ensuring access to care while minimizing possible transmission of a virus.”
Office of Rep. Ivy Spohnholz