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Two Telehealth Bills Could Be Reintroduced in Congress

By Ryan Mcaskill

Telehealth legislation is being debated across the country in state senates. A majority of these bills center on increasing reimbursement rates and better defining what services can and cannot be handled through a video meeting with a physician.

This is also happening at the national level. According to HIMSS, there is a belief that Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Gregg Harper(R-MS) will reintroduce legislation from last Congress that aims to expand Medicare payments for telehealth services. Aside from their individual bills, the pair has worked together over the last few years on bipartisan legislation around telemedicine.

“Telehealth saves money and helps save lives,” said Thompson last year. “By expanding telehealth services, we can make sure the best care and the best treatments are available to all Americans, no matter where they live.”

Thompson’s bill, H.R. 5380 Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2014, was originally introduced on July 31, 2014. It aims to expand telehealth sites and increase the number of providers that are able to offer telehealth services. This would happen in three stages to be spread out over four years and start in rural areas with less than 50,000 people.

The expansion would be driven by increased Medicare-reimbursement for video conferencing and store-and-forward technologies. This includes remote patient monitoring for chronic conditions like diabetes and congestive heart failure. The bill also expands the number of services that fall under the telemedicine umbrella.

Harper’s bill H.R. 3306 Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, was originally introduced on October 22, 2013, with a new version introduced in 2014. It seeks to add Medicare home health payments to remote monitoring services and expanding coverage to all critical access and sole community hospitals. It would also cover home-based video services for hospice care, home dialysis and homebound beneficiaries and allows states to set up high-risk pregnancy networks.

The bill would amend the Social Security Act and the Communications Act of 1934 to expand access to and improve the quality of health services. It creates incentives and standards for quality measurements and reporting processes.

“Telehealth is one of the most promising aspects of the healthcare field,” said Harper last year. “Mississippians, Californians and people all over the country can benefit from an expansion of telehealth services.

This adds to the number of telemedicine bills that have been introduced over the last few years. Which include:

  • H.R.3077 TELE-MED Act of 2013 Telemedicine for Medicare Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). Would allow licensed health professionals to provide services to Medicare beneficiaries across states and distances via telehealth platforms.
  • H.R.3306 Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS).
  • S.2662 Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2014, introduced by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) on July 24, 2014.  Companion bill to H.R.3306.
  • H.R.3750 Telehealth Modernization Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). Would establish a federal standard for telehealth that preserves, augments, and enhance the provider-patient relationship while promoting telehealth.
  • H.R.5380 Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Thompson (D-CA). 

 

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