The proposed Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 would boost federal financial support for telemedicine services and would improve current Medicare and Medicaid initiatives by launching new programs using telehealth to augment care. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California.
By eliminating arbitrary coverage restrictions and simplifying licensure requirements within federal health programs, the bill would extend the benefits of telehealth and mHealth to nearly 75 million Americans.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has announced its endorsement of the proposed bill. The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719,) sponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA 1), would establish a federal reimbursement policy, wherein “no [medical] benefit covered shall be excluded solely because it is furnished via a telecommunications system.” If passed, the bill would increase access to telemedicine within Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), TRICARE, federal employee health plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In addition to removing arbitrary coverage restrictions to telemedicine, the Thompson bill provides a new federal standard for medical licensure. Consistent with legislation already passed by Congress for military healthcare, providers in all federal health plans would only need to be licensed in the state of their physical location and would be free to treat eligible patients anywhere in the nation.
“This is a major step forward in Congressional support for telemedicine and would extend the benefits of telehealth and mHealth to nearly 75 million Americans,” said Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer of the ATA. "Representative Thompson clearly understands that telemedicine is a value—for patients, for the government and for the American tax payer. We encourage other legislators to support this win-win bill, which will improve healthcare and decrease federal health expenditures.”
The bill also proposes a series of improvements in existing Medicare and Medicaid programs, all of which would significantly augment the role and impact of telemedicine.
These changes include:
- incentivizing hospitals to lower readmissions with telemedicine, by offering them a share of the total cost savings
- expansion of the “Medical Home” coordinated-care option
- exempting Accountable Care Organizations from telehealth fee-for-service restrictions and allowing ACOs to use telemedicine as an equivalent substitute for in-person care
- launching new pilot programs for remote patient monitoring for up to 10 HHS-designated conditions
- adjusting reimbursement timelines for home health to better facilitate remote patient monitoring
- creating a telemedicine service option in Medicaid to treat high-risk pregnancies
“This bill represents a panacea for federal involvement in telemedicine, eliminating archaic barriers and expanding opportunities for remote healthcare. If passed, this bill will almost instantly make our Federally-funded health system more effective and more efficient,” said Linkous.
According to a July 2012 article in Becker’s Hospital Review, “for every dollar hospitals spend using telehealth to reach out to patients post-discharge, they could potentially save $9.50 in the long run by avoiding Medicare penalties.”
Click HERE to read the bill in full.
Pennsylvania falls under the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center, based at the UVA Center for Telehealth in Charlottesville, Va. In addition to Pennsylvania, the Center serves Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, and Washington D.C
This article was taken in part from several press releases. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. If you are experiencing medical concerns, make an appointment with your physician.
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