On June 23, 2021, Delaware Governor John Carney signed House Bill 160, the Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act of 2021 (the “Bill” or “HB160”) which continues and enhances Delaware residents’ access to telehealth services and, through the adoption of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (the “Compact”), ensures that telehealth services can be provided through qualified medical practitioners in a streamlined and efficient pathway to licensure that, according to the Bill’s supporters, meets the health care delivery system needs of the 21st century.
Consistent with recent trends, the Bill makes permanent some of the temporary provisions issued by the Governor during the public health crisis (the “Pandemic”). HB160 extends the Delaware emergency order (the “E.O”) which permitted the use of telemedicine services by residents even without the commonly required initial in-person visit. In addition, HB160 permits telehealth appointments to occur through the use of audio-only technologies which, as discussed in our December 31, 2020 blog post, “The Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act: A Matter of Healthcare Equity?,” creates equity in the use of telemedicine services for those individuals that do not have access to broadband or wi-fi networks. State Senator Sarah McBride, one of the Bill’s sponsors, noted during the signing, that “Families in rural communities will be able to access telehealth even if they struggle with reliable internet.” Further, Senator McBride stated that, because of the Bill, “A single working mom will be able to better communicate with her provider after hours. People with disabilities will face diminished barriers to care.”
Among other things, the Bill will also bring Delaware into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (the “Compact”) which makes the process for obtaining medical licensure in 29 of the 50 states much simpler for those who already hold a primary license in one of the participating states. The Bills supporters believe that joining the other states in the licensure compact will improve residents' access to care. One of the supports, Wayne Smith, the President, and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association, noted that “the [Bill] is of great significance, and particularly for a small state if you think of the number of specialists [in state] versus outside of our borders.”
HB160 came into effect as of July 1, 2021, and the state is expected to join the Compact in July of 2022.