U.S. House of Representatives members suggest that Medicare Telehealth Parity Act be released in three phases. The act will expand telehealth technology in order to improve healthcare for seniors and patients in under-served areas.

New Healthcare Bills

This past week, two telemedicine bills were introduced to the Senate and re-introduced in the House of Representatives. By passing these bills, there’s hope that they’ll aid in the expansion of telemedicine services reimbursement by Medicare and spread reimbursement to more urban areas. According to U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson and Gregg Harper, the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act should be released in three phases:

  • In the first phase, telehealth services under Medicare would be expanded to include video conferencing and store-and-forward technologies such as images and patient data that are sent to other sites for evaluation. These services would be provided to federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and counties in metropolitan areas with less than 50,000 people. Telehealth coverage would also be expanded to include certified diabetes educators, audiologists, and speech, physical, respiratory, and occupational therapists. This phase also calls for the remote-patient monitoring of diabetes, congestive heart failure and COPD.
  • Phase two consists of broadening the population areas to include zones with 50,000 to 100,000 residents. Video conferencing would also be expanded to include homes for home health services and agencies, durable medical equipment, hospice, and home dialysis.
  • In the final phase, coverage would once more be expanded to include metropolitan areas with more than 100,000 people.

The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means. However, Congress is adjourned until September and midterm elections are coming up quickly. It’s unlikely that any significant action will be taken until the start of 2015.

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker introduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2014 to the Senate as a companion bill.  If approved, this act will expand the use of telehealth technology in order to improve healthcare for seniors and patients in underserved areas. Medicare beneficiaries would be provided with greater access to telehealth technologies to help lower costs.

There are also many groups trying to expand telemedicine at the state level. The Federation of State Medical Boards is preparing a compact that will make it easier to practice medicine across state lines with participating states. It’s expected to be ready for review by state medical boards by the end of the summer.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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