Federal Trade Commission staff submitted a comment, as public testimony, to the Alaska legislature on proposed legislation that would allow licensed Alaska physicians located out-of-state to provide telehealth services in the same manner as in-state physicians.
The comment, submitted by staff of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Economics, notes that telehealth – using telecommunications to provide health care services to patients remotely – has long been a staple of Alaskan health care delivery because of the state’s vast size, rural nature, and harsh conditions. Under current Alaska law, out-of-state physicians are generally precluded from providing telehealth services, because only physicians located in the state are allowed to prescribe medications without conducting a physical examination. The proposed legislation, a part of Senate Bill 74 (SB 74), would expand the availability of telehealth services by eliminating that “in-state” requirement. It also would allow certain Alaska-licensed behavioral health professionals to provide services remotely.
“By eliminating the ‘in-state’ requirement, SB 74 would likely expand the supply of telehealth providers, promote competition, and increase access to safe and cost-effective care. It could also reduce transportation costs for Alaska patients and providers,” the comment states. “For these reasons, the elimination of the ‘in-state’ requirement by SB 74 appears to be a procompetitive improvement in the law that would benefit Alaska health care consumers, including its most vulnerable populations.”
The Commission vote to issue the staff comment was 4-0. It was sent to Representative Steve Thompson, Co-Chair, House Finance Committee, Alaska State Legislature, on March 25, 2016. (FTC File No. V160009; the staff contact is Karen A. Goldman, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2574).
The Federal Trade Commission develops policy initiatives on issues that affect competition, consumers, and the U.S. economy. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs