Telehealth Expansion Moves Forward

Legislation would enable community health centers to deploy telehealth and clinical pharmacy services for Colorado Medicaid members

DENVER, CO– The House Committee on Public Health Care and Human Services today passed Representative Yadira Caraveo’s bipartisan bill to allow the state to reimburse federally qualified community health centers for telehealth and clinical pharmacy services provided to Medicaid recipients. 

“Community health centers offer vital services to some of our state’s most vulnerable populations, but right now they can’t offer telemedicine or clinical pharmacy services to Medicaid recipients because the state won’t pay for it,” said Rep. Caraveo (D-Thornton). “Telemedicine has created an incredible opportunity to provide affordable health care services to Coloradans in rural areas and to those who find it challenging to leave their homes. This bill will improve access to care and lower costs by facilitating greater use of telemedicine and clinical pharmacy services.”

Telehealth connects patients to providers through live video and audio, which allows patients to get the care they need without traveling. Telehealth can lead to cost savings by improving access to primary care and by helping to avoid unnecessary trips to the ER. Clinical pharmacy services help patients manage chronic conditions that require medication, often several different drugs. Clinical pharmacists have proven effective at controlling chronic health conditions, improving outcomes, and reducing health care costs. 

Under current law, Medicaid will not reimburse federally qualified community health centers (FQHCs), commonly known as community health centers, for telehealth services unless both the patient and the provider are physically located in the same facility. Medicaid also will not reimburse for clinical pharmacy services. HB20-1092, which is also sponsored by Representative Perry will, would allow the state to reimburse community health centers for both telehealth services and clinical pharmacy services. 

Community Health Centers offer high-quality and low-cost primary health care services to more than one in seven Coloradans. There are over 208 FQHC clinics in 42 counties across the state. These facilities provide care on a sliding fee scale regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. They serve 27 percent of the state’s Medicaid members and 25 percent of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees. In Colorado, these centers provide health care for 35,000 people experiencing homelessness and over 9,000 veterans. Because FQHCs use an integrated health care model, they often provide high quality care at a much lower cost, saving the state money.