A bill to expand the availability of telehealth services by requiring insurers to cover services for policyholders, sponsored in the Assembly by Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa), was recently approved in that body.
Russell represents all St. Lawrence County towns along the St. Lawrence River plus Canton, Potsdam, Rossie, Macomb and DePeyester.
Telehealth is an expanding field that can provide health care and medical advice at a distance using technology. Doctors and health care professionals can be on-call at all times and ready to answer patient questions, diagnose illnesses or recommend in-person treatment, while the patient is in a more convenient location.
The bill would bring much-needed health care to rural and underserved communities and also require Medicaid to reimburse telehealth service costs, ensuring that seniors and those in need also have access to this highly beneficial and oftentimes cost saving form of care, according to a release from Russell.
“Here in the North Country, long distances and unpredictable weather make access to quality healthcare a challenge,” Russell said. “By expanding telehealth, families and seniors will have better access to primary and specialty care without driving hours to the nearest facility, and provides savings to the healthcare system.”
Denise Young, Executive Director at Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization said, “We could not be more pleased. This is truly a monumental step forward in our healthcare systems’ ability to take care of the people of the North Country. The use of telemedicine will improve access and integration of healthcare across the entire region.”
David C. Johnson, Certified Telehealth Liaison at North Country Healthcare Providers said, “Tremendous news. This is important legislation that will overcome significant barriers to obtaining vital healthcare services, especially across the more rural areas of the State.”
The legislation was informed by recommendations of the North Country Health Systems Redesign Commission, of which Assemblywoman Russell has been a member since its formation in late 2013.