By Mike Kruzman /

A local lawmaker’s plan to that would make it easier for Livingston County residents to get the medical care they need is one step closer to being signed.

Last week, the Michigan House Ways & Means Committee approved a plan introduced by Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville that would make getting preventative and routine health care more accessible via telehealth. This week it gained approval from the state House.

Current law dictates that telemedicine visits between patients and doctors must be done in real time. The proposed legislation would allow patients to record video and forward it along with images to doctors, giving doctors more time to thoroughly analyze data and test results. It also includes mental health, remote patient monitoring, and allows people to forward things like blood pressure monitors and EKGs. Vaupel called its passage ‘timely,’ as the bipartisan package was introduced before the COVID-19 outbreak. He said the main purpose of the plan is that it gets people on Medicaid eligible to use telemedicine, with Medicaid then reimbursing them. If patients are concerned about sending medical data over the internet, Vaupel says the package was written to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards that set data privacy and security provisions for keeping medical information safe. He said, “These bills definitely specify that it has to be done in a HIPAA compliant way and also in a safe and secure way. We feel it really expands the possibilities of better health care, especially to our Medicaid population.

Vaupel previously noted that while access to health care has primarily been a hurdle for rural residents up until now, in this new COVID-19 era, routine and preventative health care can be difficult for people in all parts of the state to access.

Vaupel said the package of bills went through the House Ways & Means Committee, the House Health Policy Committee, and the House floor without a dissenting vote. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.