PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday night that would permanently require health insurers to cover telemedicine.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order in early March that requires all insurers to cover telemedicine visits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That way, Rhode Islanders could have access to healthcare without having to leave their homes.

Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, sponsored the legislation, which would bring back the requirement permanently.

“Telemedicine is an excellent option for patients. It makes medical and behavioral health care access more convenient for providers and patients, which will encourage people to seek care when they need it,” Miller said. “Our experience with telemedicine during the pandemic shows that it is practical and useful to Rhode Islanders. Offering it as an option permanently would improve our health care delivery and make it more user-friendly.”

The legislation will expand access to telemedicine services by allowing audio-only telehealth appointments. It would also require all services to be reimbursed at rates not lower than the same services would have been if the visit was in-person.

Under the legislation, insurers are prohibited from imposing cost-sharing and prior authorization requirements for those services.