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Senators Re-introduce Rural Telehealth Legislation

March 21, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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A pair of U.S. Senators is trying to expand the use of telehealth under Medicare to reduce readmissions in rural and underserved communities. The Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), hope the Fostering Independence Through Technology (FITT) Act can pass through and create pilot programs that will provide incentives to home health agencies across the country to use remote patient monitoring (RPM).

This is the second time this bill has been introduced to legislation. In 2011, the bill was introduced and was killed, by “referral to committee” on the same day.  

“Telehealth technology is critical to reducing healthcare costs and ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high-quality and affordable health care,”Senator Klobuchar said in a statement. “By expanding the use of innovative home care technology, this legislation will make health care more efficient and will allow seniors to stay in their homes longer without jeopardizing their health, safety or access to health care professionals.”

“This innovative RPM technology has the ability to revolutionize patient care and dramatically reduce the amount of money Medicare spends on hospital readmissions each year,” Senator Thune added.

The need for telemedicine to assist rural health organizations has been well established, as the technology has been touted as a possible solution to the various problems that are detrimental to these providers. This past year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the creation of the “Healthcare Connect Fund,” which will expand access for rural healthcare providers to “robust broadband networks,” that could be used for telemedicine.

Klobuchar and Thune’s legislation has the support of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, the National Rural Health Association, HealthEverywhere, and the American Hospital Association.

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