Sutter Health Supports Expanded Access to Telehealth in California Legislature
SACRAMENTO, Calif.–Sutter Lakeside Hospital Chief Administrative Officer Dan Peterson testified in Sacramento yesterday in support of California state Assembly Bill 744, by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, which Sutter Health believes is a critical step toward improving access to quality health care across California by ensuring that healthcare providers are adequately reimbursed for telehealth services.
Sutter Health is driven to continually transform health care – focusing on how, when and where consumers want and need health care services. One way we are meeting patient needs is through the deployment of advanced telemedicine technology. Through the use of telemedicine we can bring high quality, around-the-clock care to patients who would not otherwise have access to specialists and specialty care. We believe this is especially important for California’s rural communities.
At Sutter Health, we witnessed this firsthand when Lake County was devastated by a massive wild fire which left Sutter Lakeside Hospital – one of the only remaining health care providers in the county – closed for 14 days. Through Sutter’s integrated network we were able to remotely deploy physicians from parts of our network not impacted by the fires to digitally treat patients of the Lake County community – but we did so without knowing if these providers would be reimbursed for their services.
Although current California law recognizes the practice of telehealth as a legitimate means for an individual to receive health care services, the language is insufficient to ensure that services are actually reimbursed. As a result, health insurers may deny coverage to patients looking to benefit from telehealth services, patients are not assured that their insurance will provide coverage, and providers are unable to develop a sustainable telehealth program for the entire patient population. AB 744 removes these barriers and will require health insurers to include coverage and reimbursement for services provided to a patient through telehealth.