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California Congressmen Introduce Telehealth Bill for Service Members

November 18, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Mike Thompson

A pair of California Democratic Congressman, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Scott Peters (CA-52), have introduced legislation that would expand telehealth services to active-duty service members, their dependents, retirees, and veterans.

This bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services and in addition to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs where its fate will be determined.

Thompson and Peterson say the bill would expand reimbursement policies covering the use of telehealth services, including essential mental health monitoring under TRICARE and the VA payer plans, They say this is necessary because of provider shortages at local practices, especially within underserved and rural communities.

“Often times telehealth provides the best care available and as a wounded combat Vietnam veteran, I understand that our service members, veterans and their families have earned and deserve the best,” Thompson said in a statement. “This bill will make sure our men and women of the Armed Forces and their families can get the highest quality care in a timely manner no matter where they live or how far away they are from the doctor they need to see. It’s the right thing to do for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”

This is not the first time Thompson has introduced a telemedicine-specific bill. Earlier in 2013, he tried to get the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012, which would establish a federal reimbursement policy for telemedicine, which would preclude the exclusion of service. That bill eventually died after also being referred to a committee.

Reps. Gregg Harper (R-MS-3) and Peter Welch (D-VT At-Large) have co-sponsored this bill.

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