(HARRISBURG) – In an act centered in political ideology, Governor Wolf today blocked access to life-saving medicine to millions of Pennsylvanians with his purely partisan veto of a bill authorizing the use of telemedicine in Pennsylvania, said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) and Senator Elder Vogel (R-47).
“For years, I have fought for more efficient access and better health care of Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Vogel, who has sponsored the telemedicine bill for the last three Senate sessions. “It’s disappointing that our rural families continue to face hours of travel to receive medical care instead of having access to a medical professional whenever and wherever it is needed.”
“Now more than ever, the need for telemedicine continues to grow,” Senator Scarnati said. “The Governor’s politically motivated veto means that many Pennsylvanians, especially in rural communities, will not receive quality care that can save the lives of children, adults and seniors who cannot otherwise access the care of a medical professional. Telemedicine should be a part of our health system now, and after this pandemic is over.”
“In bending to his political interests, the Governor is denying access to medical care, increasing the cost of healthcare and decreasing the quality of life in our communities,” Senator Corman said. “This bill embraced federal guidelines for prescribing medications. The bill changed nothing about how healthcare was being offered through an in-person visit. To use that as an excuse to the veto the bill is just a partisan falsehood.”
The Governor vetoed Senate Bill 857, which specifically defined telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a healthcare practitioner who is at a different location.” It also established guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and provides clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services.
“In the midst of a public health emergency, the desperate need for telemedicine has never been more apparent,” Senator Vogel said. “Those who struggle with chronic illnesses or homebound families could have reduced in-person contact in healthcare settings through telemedicine, mitigating the risk of further spread of COVID-19.”
The Governor has indicated that his objections to the bill are centered on language that said drugs on the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies list must be administered in-person, in a clinical setting. One of those drugs is an abortion drug.
While Senate Bill 857 makes substantial changes in the health care industry, physicians and other health practitioners delivering telemedicine services would still be required to follow standard state licensure and medical practice laws and requirements in Pennsylvania.
COVID-19 changed the landscape for medicine in Pennsylvania. Many routine in-office services are not available for patients. Telemedicine can vastly improve the availability of healthcare options for people in rural or urban areas.
The bill is supported by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Medical Society and AARP.