The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has endorsed a bill announced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives that would increase federal support and payments for telehealth services. The bill, the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 was sponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA 1), and would establish a federal reimbursement policy, which would preclude the exclusion of service solely because it was provided via a telecommunications system.
The ATA says 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, the association says, it would provide a federal standard for medical licensure which would mean federal health plans would only need to be licensed in the state of their physical location to treat patients across the country.
“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,” Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the ATA, said in a statement. “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.”
In addition, the bill includes components that would increase the role of telemedicine in Medicare and Medicaid programs such as incentivizing hospitals to lower readmissions with telemedicine, by offering them a share of the total cost savings and exempting accountable care organizations from telehealth fee-for-service restrictions. This would allow them to use telemedicine as an equivalent substitute for in-person care
“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,” added Linkous.