News, MSDC Statements, and MSDC Testimony on Health Equity Issues
DC Council Passes Audio Telemedicine and Loan Repayment Provisions
As part of a contentious debate over the District's FY21 Budget Support Act, the Council passed two provisions that will help physicians practice, especially in underserved medical areas.
The first provisions was an amendment to the Telemedicine Reimbursement Act of 2013. The original bill established telemedicine reimbursement policy but had prohibited audio, e-mail, and fax telemedicine reimbursement. The current public health emergency has shown that many residents actually need audio telemedicine because of unreliable internet connections, not having adequate video streaming technology, or other technology issues. The DC Medicaid program has seen a large number of audio telemedicine appointments during the public health emergency, especially for behavioral health appointments. The new language strikes audio telemedicine as prohibited, allowing it to continue after the public health emergency expires.
The second provision of note was the funding and structuring of the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP). The program repays the education loans of medical professionals who served for a period of time in underserved medical areas in the District. The new language offers specifics for the program, including:
- The program will pay for the cost of obtaining a health professional degree including outstanding principle, interest, and related expenses of state, federal, local, and commercial education loans.
- Physicians who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, or other in-need medical specialties as identified by DC Health can have 100% of their total debt (up to $200,000) repaid by the loan program over four years if they provide full-time service in Wards 7 and 8.
- The program also adds a retention incentive fund for DC Health to award, in addition to the loan repayment program.
Sample of Health Equity Legislation MSDC is Tracking
(See the whole list of bills here)
What does it say? The bill allows for the administration of medicinal marijuana in schools as well as allows students to bring sunscreen to schools and apply it without a prescription.
MSDC position: MSDC supports the language permitting sunscreen application in schools
Current status: A win for DC physicians and public health! The legislation passed the Council in February and awaits the mayor's signature. Previous temporary and emergency legislation permitted students to use sunscreen at schools this school year already.
What does it say? The bill requires DC Health to establish an electronic Medical Order for Scope of Treatment registry (eMOST).
MSDC position: MSDC supports this legislation to more easily allow patients to make their treatment orders known.
Current status: A win for the physician community and our patients! The Council passed the bill in December and the Mayor signed it into law on January 16, 2020.
What does it say? The bill would implement a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on the distribution of "sugary" beverages. The money collected from the tax would establish a Healthy People, Healthy Places Open Spaces Grant Program.
MSDC position: MSDC sent a letter to Council Chair Mendelson asking for a hearing to discuss all of the issues around a beverage tax.
Current status: The bill was introduced October 8, 2019 and referred to the Committee on Business and Economic Development and the Committee of the Whole.