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New program provides insurance for volunteer firefighters, dependents

Mississippi volunteer firefighters and their dependents can now enroll in an insurance program that is the first of its kind in the nation.

State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney announced this week the selection of Teladoc to provide telehealth services to the 13,000 volunteer firefighters in the state and their dependents. The statewide service will provide 24/7 access to licensed physicians in the Teladoc network via smart phone or online video.

“This is the first statewide program of its kind in the country. We are excited that the Mississippi Insurance Department chose Teladoc to be its telehealth partner,” said Cynthia Mark, vice president, Health Plan Strategy for Teladoc. “We’re proud to have the opportunity to extend health care coverage within the state and add to our record of providing more than 1 million medical consults to Americans.”

Legislature sets plan

In 2015, the Mississippi State legislature authorized funding and directed the Mississippi Insurance Department to establish a telemedicine medical health plan for volunteer firefighters in the state. Volunteer firefighters individually have the option to enroll in the program through the county fire coordinators.

“Teladoc will be a valuable benefit to the state and our volunteer firefighters. Through Teladoc we can offer our volunteer firefighters and their families affordable, convenient access to quality health care, minimize time away due to illness as well as time spent traveling to and awaiting medical care which is not always available in rural areas,” Chaney said.

“The program with Teladoc will also benefit the state by increasing the availability of our firefighters to respond to emergency calls because routine medical conditions can be dealt with promptly.”

In offering telehealth consults to its volunteer firefighters, the Mississippi Insurance Department expects the Teladoc program to be a recruiting incentive as demographic changes decrease the pool of available firefighters.

Local reaction

Lafayette County co-fire coordinator Jerry Johnson said the department just recently learned of the program and are currently working to see which volunteer firefighters may be interested in the program. During their monthly meeting Thursday, Johnson will introduce the program so the various fire districts can get the word out to the volunteer firefighters and determine how many may be interested in the program.

Johnson said it will cost a volunteer firefighter just $20 a year to enroll in the program and cover their dependents age 18 and under living at home.

“We will create a data base and authorize those who sign up,” Johnson said. “Then we’ll walk them through it.”

He added that through the program, the participating doctors can also prescribe some medications, such as antibiotics but not controlled substances.

Johnson believes the program is a good idea, especially for those volunteer firefighters who live in very rural areas and need to get a doctor’s opinion.

“They can actually let the doctor take a look at them on their smartphone or laptop where they can make a recommendation if they need to go see a physician in person or go to a hospital,” Johnson said. “I can see a real use for it. I’ll probably sign up for it just to set the example.”