May 28, 2013
Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday participated in a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 1353, also known as the Telemedicine Reimbursement Parity Act, requiring telemedicine services be covered by health insurance in rural areas of Arizona.
The bill was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Brewer in a ceremony held in the T-Health Institute on the campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The institute is part of the award-winning Arizona Telemedicine Program based at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.
Senate Bill 1353, sponsored by Sen. Gail Griffin, says beginning in 2015 insurers must cover patient care services provided through the telemedicine service programs, if the insurers pay for the services when they are provided in a traditional clinic or hospital setting.
The Arizona Telemedicine Program was established by the AZ State Legislature in 1996. “This telemedicine network now links 70 Arizona communities, at 160 sites, and has handled more than 1 million cases,” said Gov. Brewer in signing the legislation. “Senate Bill 1353 will make health-care delivery faster, more accessible, less expensive and more effective – particularly for those rural Arizonans.”
“Our telemedicine program is a critical link to healthcare. We primarily are devoted to improving access to specialized medical care throughout the State of Arizona,” said Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, co-founder and director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program.
Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns, a former Arizona legislator, credited Griffin for getting her bill passed with “no ‘no’ votes” in the House or the Senate – a rare case of unanimity, as it would be in any state Legislature.
Burns has championed the Arizona Telemedicine Program since 1996, when he and Dr. Weinstein obtained state funding for the program and got it up and running.
“There is so much to be proud of in terms of what’s been done,” Weinstein told the audience, “and there is so much more to do going forward.”
Arizona telemedicine programs cover the state and even spill over into Utah and New Mexico, with a wide range of health services from teleradiology to telepsychiatry.
The new law defines telemedicine services as the delivery of health care, diagnosis, consultation and treatment and the transfer of medical data through interactive audio, video or data communications that occur in the physical presence of the patient.
About the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix admitted its inaugural class of first-year medical students in August 2007. The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix currently has 265 students training to be physicians. The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains individuals to become exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders who are life-long learners and inquisitive scholars and who will embrace professionalism, innovation and collaboration to optimize health and health care for all.
About the Arizona Telemedicine Program
The Arizona Telemedicine Program is a membership-based Application Service Program telehealth consortium. Established in 1996 by Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, and former Arizona State Sen. Robert Burns, the program is recognized as one of the premier entities of its kind in the world for telemedicine clinical services, education and research. More than 1 million people in Arizona have received telemedicine services over the program’s private telecommunications network. For more information about the Arizona Telemedicine Program and the T-Health Institute, visit www.telemedicine.arizona.edu, or call 602-827-2116 for training information.