Governor Ducey Signs Legislation To Dramatically Expand Telehealth

Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to dramatically expand telemedicine in Arizona and provide greater opportunities for accessible medical services, fulfilling a priority of his 2021 State of the State Address.

“Ensuring Arizonans have access to safe and reliable medical services is a top priority,” said Governor Ducey. “Telehealth expands access to medical services for low-income families and those living in rural areas, protects vulnerable populations, and allows snowbirds visiting our state to receive telemedicine from their home state. Patients and medical professionals know what’s best for their needs, and we’re working to make sure they have access to those services. I’m grateful to Representative Regina Cobb for sponsoring House Bill 2454, and to the legislators and medical professionals who supported it.”

House Bill 2454 puts Arizona at the national forefront of telemedicine. It expands access to telemedicine for patients, ensures doctors receive equal compensation from insurance companies for telemedicine services, and allows out-of-state health care professionals to provide telemedicine in Arizona.

“Telehealth was an extremely valuable tool during the pandemic,” said Representative Cobb. “It’s helped Arizonans get in contact with health care providers, mental health specialists, speech therapists, and more from the safety of their home. HB 2454 will continue those efforts and ensure that those living in Arizona receive medical service in a safe and convenient manner.”

Under the bill, medical examinations in the worker’s compensation space can also be conducted via telehealth if all parties consent. It also prohibits healthcare boards from enforcing any rule that requires a patient to visit in-person before being prescribed most medications.

“HB 2454 is a win for physicians and patients alike,” said Arizona Medical Association President Dr. Miriam Anand. “Every patient deserves access to the appropriate care needed to treat their medical conditions. HB 2454 will break down unnecessary barriers to telehealth and help facilitate the delivery of high-quality care to patients across Arizona.”

HB 2454 also requires medical insurers to provide payment parity for telehealth services using audio and visual features, and allows health care providers who are licensed in other states to provide telehealth services into Arizona under certain conditions.

“Telehealth has played a crucial role during the pandemic by providing our patients with continued access to health care,” said Dignity Health Arizona Division President and CEO Linda Hunt. “This new legislation will provide Arizonans, including those residing in rural parts of the state where health care options are limited, with expanded access to care.”

HB 2454 will make telemedicine services provided to Arizonans through the Governor’s Executive Order last March permanent. This order required health care insurance companies to expand telemedicine coverage for all services that would normally be covered for an in-person visit, and was instituted to ensure that Arizonans who may be sick or under quarantine could access care from their homes and avoid potentially risky trips to a health care provider.

“On behalf of Phoenix Children’s and our patient families, I would like to thank the Governor and Representative Cobb for their leadership on this important piece of legislation to expand telehealth for Arizona’s children,” said Phoenix Children’s Medical Group Physician-in-Chief and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jared Muenzer. “Telehealth is a proven tool for connecting children with their clinical teams, improving access to medical and behavioral health care, driving quality outcomes, and giving our Phoenix Children’s patients the hope and healing they need, right in their own homes.”

Telemedicine in Arizona has gained local appreciation. An article from the Arizona Capitol Times on April 2 recognized efforts by state legislators to increase telehealth and covered benefits of telemedicine including its accessibility, affordability and convenience.

“Telehealth has proven to be an invaluable aspect of delivering behavioral and integrated health service to individuals and families that would not have received those services otherwise during the pandemic,” said Touchstone Health Services CEO Eddy D. Broadway. “We are so excited and pleased that telehealth is now a permanent aspect of the service delivery system and will definitely benefit members that we serve — a real game changer.”

Arizona’s telemedicine efforts have also gained national attention. The Washington Examiner on February 24 published a story highlighting the legislation and recognizing Governor Ducey’s work to cut red tape, stating:

“Ducey’s administration has long championed regulatory flexibility that’s the first of its kind, from universal licensing recognition, which allowed people from all over to move to Arizona and work, to making Arizona the first state in America to have a FinTech sandbox program that allows businesses to launch products on a limited scale without certain regulatory burdens. Implementing this bill would continue that trend.”

The legislation goes into effect immediately and covers three 2020 Executive Orders issued by Governor Ducey to expand telehealth, so the Governor today rescinded those Orders. View the Executive Order HERE.