JUNEAU – The telehealth access Alaskans relied on during the pandemic is on the path to becoming permanent after Rep. Ivy Spohnholz’s House Bill 265 passed the Senate floor by a vote of 17-0. The bill would increase Alaskans’ access to health care by making permanent some of the flexibilities that were crucial to patients and providers during the pandemic. Without HB 265, Alaskans would risk losing expanded telehealth access when the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) expires this July.
HB 265 prevents disruption to Alaska’s health care system by creating a framework for telehealth in state statute. It eliminates unnecessary red tape for providers and gives health care providers licensed in the state the ability to deliver care via telehealth without an in-person visit. The bill also requires equal pay for equal work from Medicaid for services delivered via telehealth, supports innovation in the health care sector, and ensures that all Alaskans have access to care. Additionally, HB 265 improves access to out-of-state specialty care by allowing follow-up care via telehealth after an in-person visit, and patient consultations via telehealth for life-threatening conditions.
“These last two years have shown us the benefits of telehealth,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D – Anchorage). “More access to care and cost savings for both Alaskans and the state make it clear why patients and providers alike are excited to continue the expansion of telehealth. I’m grateful for the bipartisan legislative and widespread community support for HB 265.”
“This is a widely supported bill, among legislators, health care providers, and Alaskans,” said Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla). “I’m thrilled that all Alaskans will be able to enjoy the freedom to seek high-quality health care without having to travel to obtain it.”
HB 265 has received wide support from over 40 health care organizations, including the Alaska State Medical Association, Southcentral Foundation, Alaska Association on Developmental Disabilities, Alaska Behavioral Health Association, Alaska Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Alaska Primary Care Association, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Alaska Native Health Board, and Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and dozens more.
The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.