Health Policy Round Up 7.23.19


Payment parity and other telehealth bills still alive this legislative session in California


Maine is third state to pass parity bill this year


Hearing on ethical implications of AI held by congress and policy experts


Livongo files IPO paperwork with SEC

Legislative & Regulatory Developments



AB 744 Establishes telehealth payment parity for all payers

  • Passed Senate Health Committee, set for August 12 Senate Appropriations hearing
  • Amended to push implementation from 2020 to 2021 and to reinforce that co-pays are not required for telehealth services

AB 1264: Specifies that an appropriate examination prior to dispensing drugs to a patient can be achieved through telehealth

  • Passed Senate Health Committee, set for a third reading on Senate floor

A.B. 1494: Requires that Medi-Cal reimburse safety net providers who furnish services via telehealth during states of emergency without prior face-to-face visits

  • Passed Senate Health Committee, sent to Senate Appropriations

SB 24: Requires that public colleges provide access to medical abortion services on campus; includes telehealth startup funding to meet this requirement

  • Passed Assembly Health Committee, sent to Assembly Appropriations


Other States

Maine LD-1263: Requires health plans in the state cover any telehealth service also offered in person and includes RPM guidelines.

  • Signed by Gov. Janet Mills on June 13th Read more



FCC approves $100M for Connected Care Pilot. On July 10th, the FCC unanimously approved $100 million to fund a pilot to promote access to telehealth services for low-income consumers, particularly in HPSAs, rural areas, among others. Chairman Ajit Pai characterized this development as “the health care equivalent of moving from Blockbuster to Netflix.”  The FCC is now seeking comments on its plan to bring “connected care everywhere.” Read more.

FDA Funding Bill Includes Telehealth. The House of Representatives passed the 2020 Appropriations Act for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (HR 3055) on June 25th. Legislators amended the Distance Learning, Telemedicine and Broadband Program budget to include $5 million of additional funding for Community Connect Grants’ financing of broadband transmission in rural areas. The bill now awaits consideration in the Senate. Read more.

News Articles, Research & Reports

Research: Contactless cardiac arrest detection using smart devices In a proof of concept study, researchers from the University of Washington trained machine learning to detect agonal breathing that indicates cardiac arrest using Amazon’s Alexa. The audible biomarker detection’s false positive rate was 0.2%, and researchers hope to strengthen the tool with more sample recordings, provided by 9-1-1 call records from King County, WA. Read more.

News: Could AI be the “next asbestos”? A Harvard law professor and other health technology experts suggest that, contrary to some expectations, AI might pose a threat to privacy and perpetuate bias in health care, two problems AI is supposed to prevent. And like asbestos “[i]t turns out that it’s all over the place, even though at no point did you explicitly install it, and it has possibly some latent bad effects that you might regret later, after it’s already too hard to get it all out.” Read more.

Research: Tracking Progress Toward Nationwide Interoperability: “Are We Halfway There Yet?” In a recent Health Affairs blog, Karen DeSalvo and Mark Savage describe four use cases that are “national priorities for interoperability” for tracking nationwide interoperability progress, as outlined in ONC’s  2015 roadmap. “As stakeholders and experts wrestle with whether we are moving too fast or too slow, we suggest using four core use cases to assess interoperability proposals and to monitor our progress on the road to an interoperable nationwide learning health system.” Read more.

News: Reflection on Beta Blockers, Addiction and Online Prescribing Slate journalist Shannon Palus reflects on how her use of beta blockers for social anxiety “took over my life” and how telehealth has made it easy to gain access beta blockers and other drugs by merely completing a questionnaire or email in some cases. “After going through the process of trying to order them online myself, I feel worried about how easy it was to get them from Hers, and how easy it would be to lie on those forms,” Palus writes. Read more.

News: Livongo files IPO paperwork. Chronic disease management company Livongo has filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. If it happens, their IPO will be the first in the U.S. digital health sector since 2016. Read more.

Recent Hearings

June 26th: U.S. House Science Committee: Artificial Intelligence: Societal and Ethical Implications

July 3rd: California Senate Health Committee Bill Hearing: Agenda & Video

Upcoming Hearings

August 12th: California Senate Appropriations