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Governor Ige joined by Rachel Wong, Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services director; Sen. Roz Baker; Virginia Pressler, Hawaiʻi Department of Health director and Rep. Della Au Belatti

Governor David Ige signed a bill into law today which expands coverage in Hawaiʻi for telemedicine services.

Senate Bill 2395, Relating to Telehealth, requires the state’s Medicaid managed care and fee-for-service programs cover services provided through telehealth, stating that these programs “shall not deny coverage for any service provided through telehealth that would be covered if the service were provided through in-person consultation between a patient and a health care provider.”

Governor Ige said the bill is dear to his heart and his long-running efforts to relieve Hawaiʻi’s physician shortage, which is especially severe on the neighbor islands, and which has been the object of several studies conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Hawaiʻi Area Health Education Center.

Senator Roz Baker said the new law builds upon the work of a conference last January held at the John A. Burns School of Medicine and organized by the Pacific Basin Telehealth Research Center (PBTRC), a federally funded program housed within the Social Science Research Institute at UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences.

“This is so significant for Hawaiʻi,” said JABSOM Senior Scientist Deborah Birkmire-Peters. “Hawaiʻi now has the one of the most progressive and comprehensive telehealth laws in the country.”

PBTRC Co-Director Christina Higa said telehealth is critical for our island state, “Telehealth helps to increase access to health services, improve quality of care, and reduce cost. It is wonderful that the legislature and governor have advanced telehealth through this enabling law that lifts many of the long-standing barriers and provides opportunities for win-win situations for patients, providers, and our communities.”

Read more about the bill signing at the JABSOM website.

—By Tina Shelton

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