A bill expanding telehealth services in Montana is before the state Legislature with both legislators and other state officials speaking out in favor of the bill.

House spokesman Dylan Klapmeier has details on the bill and its sponsor.

“Representative Rhonda Knutson is sponsoring House Bill 43,” said Klapmeier. “The purpose of House Bill 43 is to expand telehealth in Montana. We've seen that telehealth has been a huge benefit for people, especially people in rural areas, seniors, and those with mobility issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Klapmeier said the intent of the bill is to make the waivers currently in place permanent.

“The primary thing that House Bill 43 does is that some of the regulations around telehealth have been waived due to COVID,” he said. “That bill basically keeps those waivers in place permanently, the point being that if we didn't need these regulations during the COVID pandemic on telehealth, we probably didn't need those regulations in the first place.”

Another bill that is moving through the Legislature is House Bill 231 that deals with what is called a ‘Certificate of Need’ being approved before any major infrastructure projects can proceed.

“What a certificate of need or ‘CON’ laws do is before a new service or a new facility providing health care can open up and operate in an area, it had to get permitted,” he said. “In other words, it has to get permission from the Department of Public Health and Human Services at the state level, and it basically has to prove that there is a need for that service in that area and also that that particular service isn't already being offered.”

Klapmeier said the need for such a bill has long since passed.

“CON reduced competition, which reduced the number of services in many areas, and so it's kind of an antiquated law,” he said. “Most other western states, including all of Montana's neighboring states have eliminated their CON laws. So this just brings Montana up to date and says generally that competition is a good thing. It's going to create more healthcare options for people and lower prices as well.”

The Certificate of Need program has been supported by the Montana Department of Health and Human services, who maintain a Certificate of Need helps to promote proper distribution of certain healthcare services.

 

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