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Telehealth News

New Bill May Expand Telehealth to Underserved Populations

By Sara Heath

In recent months, discussions of telehealth and its availability among Medicare beneficiaries have been abuzz. Many organizations, such the American Hospital Association, feel that Medicare needs to expand its policies regarding telehealth so that it can be made available to more beneficiaries, reported EHRIntelligence.com. A new piece of legislation, the Telemedicine for Medicare Act of 2015, could bring that necessary expansion.

telehealth for more medicare patients due to house bill

The act, also known as the Tele-Med Act of 2015, aims to “amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to permit certain Medicare providers licensed in a State to provide telemedicine services to certain Medicare beneficiaries in a different State,” according to Congress.gov.

This means that Medicare would see policy changes that allow physicians to practice medicine across state lines via telehealth. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey and Congressman Devin Nunes of California. So far, it has 24 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Congressman Pallone hopes the legislation will help expand quality healthcare to all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of geographic location.

“The TELE-MED Act is an important step towards a healthier America,” he says in a post on his website. “By expanding the reach of medical resources while reducing the cost and increasing the quality, the legislation will provide access to a large portion of the country that is currently underserved.”

The bill has received a notable amount of praise in the healthcare industry, as well. On August 11, 21 national associations co-signed a letter supporting the bill and its intent to expand telemedicine services to more Medicare beneficiaries. Co-signers of the letter include the American Telemedicine Association, Anthem, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and many others.

The letter states that currently telemedicine policies under Medicare are costly and do not enable the highest quality of care to be delivered to underserved populations.

“Patients are forced to travel often long distances to receive care from a health professional or to forgo care altogether, when study after study demonstrates the cost saving and health improving benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring,” the co-signed write.

The letter continues to praise the expansion of quality care the bill would enable, and cites the success of similar past bills.

“Congress has passed laws allowing for the same system in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs,” the letter says. “The results are impressive. Within the VA, home telehealth services reduced bed days of care by 59 percent and hospital admissions by 35 percent.”

The bill is still in its earliest stages, having first been presented to the House of Representatives on July 15. It has since been passed to the Subcommittee on Health.

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