Overview of Michigan telemedicine laws
Telemedicine is the use of communication technologies, like phones, tablets, or computers, to connect a patient with a health care professional in a different location. Telemedicine is viewed as both a cost-effective alternative to traditional face-to-face provider appointments and examinations and a way to increase assess in areas of the state with shortages of health care professionals.
In response to the public health emergency caused by the spread of COVID-19, state policymakers suspended, through executive order, some of the barriers to telehealth in the private payer insurance market and in Medicaid. This flexibility increases access to care, which is especially meaningful for low-income individuals, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities who often have chronic conditions that continue to need monitoring. In effect, it puts Michiganders and their providers in direct control of how, when, and where they could assess care needs, as well as reduce in-person visits to only those who really needed them.
Michigan law allows health care providers to connect with patients via telemedicine, with some unwarranted restrictions. It requires the provider to be licensed in Michigan.
Michigan also has quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to telemedicine for Medicaid recipients, including those in the Healthy Michigan program. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, state policymakers can decide what types of telemedicine to cover; where in the state it can be covered; how it is provided/covered; what types of telemedicine practitioners/providers may be covered/reimbursed; and how much providers will be reimbursed.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services gave Medicaid recipients increased freedom to use telemedicine. They were able to seek a consultation from their home or another convenient location, not just a health provider’s office or approved health facility.
Recommendation: Allow telemedicine across state lines and permanently allow Medicaid recipients to use telemedicine at home.
Some unwarranted restrictions prevent quality health care providers from across the country from connecting with and treating Michigan patients through telemedicine. Michigan lawmakers should update telemedicine licensing restrictions to allow health care providers to practice across state lines. Current law requires all providers to obtain a Michigan license. But this keeps high-quality providers from delivering needed care to millions of Michiganders and limits options and access for patients. Michiganders should be free to use telehealth to find the provider of their choice. This means that health care providers licensed and in good standing in their primary state of practice should be allowed to provide care within their scope of practice, regardless of where the patient might be.
In 2019, just 21 states allowed Medicaid recipients to see health providers through telemedicine at home. COVID-19 changed that, and 47 states updated their Medicaid telemedicine policies to permit telemedicine at home. Michigan policymakers should make this temporary pandemic policy permanent.
Michigan has many shortages of health professionals, including in primary care, mental health, and dental health. This change would help address these provider shortages, especially in rural areas. It would also help Michiganders with chronic conditions have additional choices to help manage them through remote providers and provide new business opportunity for Michigan-based providers.
Expanding telemedicine will improve health care access throughout all regions of the state, and it also better prepares Michigan for any future public health emergencies. The opportunity for innovation in health care through the expansion of telemedicine can help Michigan build a better, healthier future.