House rejects telemedicine bill

The Arkansas House of Representatives rejected a bill on Friday that would allow telemedicine providers to enter the state.

House Bill 1747, sponsored by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, would allow companies like Teladoc to provide telemedicine services in the state using doctors licensed and living in Arkansas.

"This opens up the telemedicine health care door to give access and save hundreds of thousands of dollars," Sullivan said.

The bill would allow patients to be treated by a doctor through various forms of video using providers like Teladoc, which facilitate the contact between the patient and doctor.

The bill says that telemedicine technology "does not include audio only, email, text messages, or online questionnaires."

Several representatives expressed concern that telemedicine would be detrimental to patients who actually need to see a physician in person.

"It certainly is an exciting time in medicine…but I think we need to slow this process down," Rep. Stephen Magie, D-Conway, said. "Just because it costs less doesn't mean it's good medicine. It may sound good but I think in the long term it's going to sell our patients short."

Sullivan said "the only way to slow [the bill] down more is to add another state and make it an island" as Arkansas is the last state that has not allowed telemedicine companies to practice.

Other representatives said this bill would give consumers the freedom to choose how and when to receive medical care.

"This is about a freed bill here, letting consumers and doctors make decisions about health care," Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, said. "This model works in 49 other states."

The bill failed with 49 voting for, 21 voting against and 2 voting present. Sullivan moved to have the vote expunged but House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said he would have time to do that during Monday's session.

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.