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From Health Law Daily, August 19, 2014

Alaska telemedicine bill becomes law sans governor’s signature

By Patricia K. Ruiz, JD

Alaska has passed a bill prohibiting the Alaska State Medical board from imposing sanctions on physicians in Alaska who prescribe certain drugs through telemedicine without requiring an in-person physical examination. Governor Sean Parnell (R-Ala.) allowed the passing of the HB 281 without his signature following supporters’ contentions that the bill would provide increased access to health care at a lower cost and with more individual choice. Alaska’s constitution allows for a bill to become law if 15 days pass without the governor signing or vetoing the bill, or if 20 days pass while the legislature is not in session.

“The bill’s potential public benefits of health care access, affordability, and personal responsibility were rigorously weighed against concerns raised by the Alaska State Medical Board,” said Parnell in a press release. “Like the overwhelming number of legislators who voted to pass HB 281, I believe Alaskans’ interests more heavily weight (sic) toward letting this bill become law. I also have a great deal of respect for the Alaska State Medical Board and its concern for, in certain circumstances, losing the ability for an in-office patient examination.”

The Alaska State Medical Board (the Board) had previously argued that the standard of care would be lowered without requiring either a prior physician-patient relationship or the presence of a licensed health care provider with the patient during the telemedicine consultation. The Board cited (1) potential for missed diagnoses and overprescribing; (2) negative consequences on the current medical practice in Alaska; (3) potential liability and investigative costs related to misdiagnosis and mismanagement, as well as resultant poor patient outcomes; (4) a decreased standard of care in Alaska; and (5) the setting of practice standards via statute rather than Board-promulgated regulation.

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