ERIC Telehealth Testimony to New Jersey General Assembly Appropriations Committee

June 16, 2017

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WRITTEN TESTIMONY ON BEHALF OF THE ERISA INDUSTRY COMMITTEE (ERIC) REGARDING TELEMEDICINE
BEFORE THE NEW JERSEY GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

On behalf of The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), thank you for accepting input from interested stakeholders as you consider Assembly Committee Substitute for Assembly Bill 1464 (ACS 1464), which permits health care providers to engage in telemedicine and telehealth in New Jersey. ERIC is the only national association that advocates exclusively for large employers on health, retirement, and compensation public policies at the federal, state, and local levels. We speak in one voice for our members on their benefit and compensation interests, including many members with employees and retirees in New Jersey. 

We submitted testimony to the Assembly Committee on Health and Senior Services in support of the version of ACS 1464 available prior to the Committee’s hearing on June 12; however, the version released that afternoon contained an addition to Section 11. That addition is a provision that sunsets Section 3, the portion of the bill that permits the establishment of the patient-provider relationship via telemedicine. In other words, three years after enactment, this legislation would now become a major impediment to patients who wish to use telemedicine, rather than a step forward in expanding access. This new provision actually makes the legislation worse than the status quo. If that sunset provision remains in the bill, major employers can no longer support it, and members of the Assembly should not advance ACS 1464.

As plan sponsors, our members strive to provide the best health care possible to their employees, retirees, and families at an affordable cost. At ERIC, we seek to enhance our members’ ability to provide high-quality, affordable health care. We recognize the significant opportunity provided by telemedicine to modernize health care delivery and improve access to quality medical care for workers and their dependents. Telemedicine vastly improves convenience for patients, while at the same time increasing access to care, and reducing costs. Policy changes should always be focused on expanding access to telemedicine and preventing artificial barriers to care.

ERIC is pleased that Section 3 of ACS 1464 permits the patient-provider relationship to be established through telemedicine services. However, the sunset provision in Section 11 would end Section 3, effective three years after the bill’s enactment, fundamentally crippling the use of telemedicine in New Jersey. Telemedicine has the ability to increase access to health care for many individuals, but if a patient is required to have a preexisting relationship with a provider, or to have an initial in-person encounter before using telemedicine, the barriers that are broken down with Section 3 of the bill will be built back into place three years later.

Telemedicine minimizes the time spent attending a health care provider visit, making telehealth a great value to working parents, caregivers, and others struggling to balance work and family demands. It also provides access to care for rural and urban underserved populations, retirees, the elderly, disabled employees, and those with language barriers, chronic conditions, or transportation barriers that may otherwise not have access to care. These benefits of telemedicine will be greatly diminished if it can only be used by those with preexisting patient-provider relationships. There are many people that do not have established relationships: people that have recently moved for work, college students, those in need of a specialist, or those that simply never have been to a health care provider. The step forward in health care that telemedicine can provide will be unavailable to these individuals if Section 3 is made to expire.

Because a patient must have access to telemedicine before any of the other provisions of the bill can benefit him or her, ERIC cannot support ACS 1464 with Section 11’s current language. ERIC urges the Committee to consider the needs of patients in New Jersey who stand to benefit from increased access to telemedicine services by striking the sunset language in Section 11, leaving it to read, “This act shall take effect immediately.”

Thank you for accepting our input on this legislation. ERIC is pleased to represent large employers with the goal of ensuring telemedicine benefits are accessible to millions of workers, retirees, and their families. If you have any questions concerning our written testimony, or if we can be of further assistance, please contact Adam Greathouse at agreathouse@eric.org or 202-627-1914.

Sincerely,

Adam J. Greathouse
Associate, Health Policy