Bill Aims to Break Down Telemedicine Barriers

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Breaking Down Barriers to TelehealthA bill being reviewed by several U.S. House committees would advance telehealth in an unprecedented way to the betterment of the home health industry.

HR 6719 was introduced by California Democrat Mike Thompson to fix two current barriers: physician licensure and reimbursement. Thompson’s bill, The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012, would ensure that no medical benefit covered by Medicaid, Medicare, federal employee health plans, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs or Tricare could be excluded solely because it’s furnished via a telecommunications system.

The bill also addresses the issue of clinicians treating patients in another state. It says as long as providers in government health plans are licensed in the state where they are located, they can provide telehealth services to eligible patients anywhere in the country.

To further strengthen the role of telemedicine in healthcare, the bill proposes:

  • Adjusting reimbursement timelines for home health to better facilitate remote patient monitoring
  • Exempting ACOs from telehealth fee-for-service restrictions and allowing ACOs to use telemedicine as a substitute for in-person care
  • Incentivizing hospitals to lower readmissions with telehealth by offering them a share of the savings
  • Expanding the medical home coordinated-care option
  • Launching new pilot programs for remote patient monitoring for up to 10 HHS-designated conditions

Not surprisingly, the American Telemedicine Association is urging its members to support the bill. ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous says the bill is a major step forward and that Rep. Thompson clearly understands that telemedicine is a value for patients, the government and taxpayers.

The bill is being reviewed by five House committees, so don’t expect any substantive action to happen immediately. But you may want to voice your support if your representatives serve on any of these committees: Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services or Veterans’ Affairs.

This could be a game-changer for our industry, and we’ll definitely be watching this one closely.

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