The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday regarding how the telehealth industry will operate moving forward in the state of Alabama. The legislation requires that once a patient has seen the telemedicine physician four times for the same malady, they must then see the referring physician for an in-person visit.

Senate Bill 272 (SB272) was sponsored by State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) and was carried on the House floor by House Health Committee Chairman Paul Lee (R-Dothan).“Right now we have all benefited from telehealth over the pandemic,” Lee said. “It has become especially important for rural areas.”

The legislation intends to expand access to health care across the state via technology. Due to the ways telehealth has proven a viable tool in providing medical care, the legislation states that it “should be promoted as sound public policy” and made available to every Alabama resident. 

Lee said that the state has no regulation for telemedicine in the law, making it “a very gray area”.

“The last thing we want is people calling you and asking, 'Can I be your doctor?’” Lee said. “It is the wild, wild west.

“We want to make sure that we are getting the best care we can. It is not the same as face-to-face but we want to get it as close to that as we can.”

Some national lobbyists for the telemedicine community objected to the requirement that patients actually go to a physician or nurse practitioner’s office after four telehealth visits.

When Rep. Sam Jones (D-Mobile) asked why telehealth companies oppose the bill. Lee answered, “We wrote our bill for Alabama. It does not fit some of the companies’ business model. We are not in it to fit their business model. They can adapt their business model to fit Alabama.”

SB272 passed the House on a 100 to 0 vote. The bill has already passed the Senate and now goes to the governor for her consideration.

Wednesday will be day 28 of the Alabama Regular Legislative session. There are at most three days left in the 2022 regular session.

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