Current Missouri law requires that patients must have audio and video connections during their online healthcare appointment. If they don’t, their insurance company might not pay for the visit. 

A Missouri bill aims to ensure that online healthcare services are reimbursed when only an audio connection is available. The Missouri Senate is considering a bill that is sponsored by Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. She said having the audio-only option would improve access to healthcare services.

She told a health and welfare committee that demand for telehealth services spiked due to COVID-19.

“Since so many Missourians lack internet access, audio-only telehealth has become a popular choice,” she said. “With audio-only telehealth providers and patients don’t have to worry about reliable internet connection or knowing how to use a smart device or computer.”

The bill also makes it so that healthcare providers cannot limit what platform is used.

“Not surprisingly, it’s become a preferred choice among rural and elderly Missourians. Audio-only visits can make patients feel more comfortable and safe,” she said. “For example, children who have experienced abuse or young people struggling with issues like disordered eating or depression, or suicidal ideation may feel more comfortable with an audio-only option.”

The bill received the support of several members of the medical community, including Dr. Chuck Hollister, CEO of the Missouri Psychological Association. He said that this bill guarantees that there will be better access for Missourians who struggle with access to broadband, including for one elderly patient whom he said struggled adapting to telehealth.

“She had trouble with the technology,” he said. “The sessions became about how to help her with the technology, not to help her with her mental health issues, which brought her into care. So, when they switched to audio-only telehealth, she was fine. Things got better for her at that point because that was something she was comfortable with. So, we want technology that matches the patient, right? The patient shouldn’t always have to match the technology.”

The bill could be voted out of committee soon.

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