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Mississippians now have permanent access to telehealth
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A new law in Mississippi permanently allows residents to connect with doctors remotely. Experts say this will help bring essential medicine to the most underserved parts of the state.

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Telemedicine is now a permanent fixture of healthcare in Mississippi, as Senate Bill 2738 has been signed into law. Because of insurance restrictions, emergency orders were issued during the height of the pandemic to allow telemedicine across Mississippi. Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says those orders ended months ago, but this law will allow telehealth to resume.

“It’s certainly convenient for the consumer,” says Chaney. “It provided access through rural areas in the State of Mississippi, especially along the Mississippi River from Natchez all the way up to Tunica. We have a dire need of doctors in a lot of the counties that border the Mississippi River, so this was another way to deliver medicine to these particular people living in rural areas.”

Experts say these programs can give patients equipment to monitor various diseases, such as diabetes. Mississippi has one of the highest diabetic rates in the nation, and these tools can share vitals such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels with doctors miles away. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says telehealth can bridge the health gap in rural areas.

“I think it’s a big win for the state,” says Dr. Byers. “Particularly for Mississippi, when we look at where providers are, and health disparities, and even disparities of where there may be a county where the nearest provider is 50 miles away. And that by itself creates a barrier for that person to access routine care. I think that’s a huge win.”

The law prevents insurance providers from forcing patients to use an in-house telemedicine program, and some form of contact is necessary prior to an audio-only telehealth visit.