The Health IT Now coalition has released a statement supporting the House’s passage of the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS Act), bipartisan legislation that aims to expand telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
This week, the House of Representatives voted to pass the VETS Act, a bill which allows a licensed healthcare professional of the VA to practice his or her profession using telemedicine at any location in any state, regardless of where the professional or patient is located. The bill was introduced by U.S. Representatives Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Julia Brownley (D-CA).
Health IT Now, a group of patient groups, provider organizations, employers, and payers, according to its leadership, has led a years-long, multifaceted advocacy effort supporting this policy solution that included testifying at a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health roundtable, assembling two-dozen organizations on a formal letter of support, supporting administrative action via proposed rule, and aggressive media outreach.
As such, the organization’s executive director Joel White was quite pleased with the House’s passage of the bill. In a statement, White said, Telehealth has revolutionized the way we deliver healthcare in this country yet, for too long, bureaucratic red tape has prevented the most deserved among us from experiencing the full benefits of this technology. This broken status quo has been particularly burdensome to veterans in our rural communities who, without access to telehealth services, must drive long distances to receive needed care. By putting these regulations on the side of veterans and providers, we can bring the VA into the 21st Century and spur better outcomes for the 20 million men and women in its care today."
White added, “Today's unanimous vote of confidence in the House should give Senators all the reason they need to get this bill to the president's desk without delay." Indeed, the bill is now in the Senate’s hands.
Currently, VA may only perform at-home telehealth services when the patient and provider are located in the same state. Such requirements prevent veterans from seeking treatment from a provider in another state that may be closer to their home. In some cases, veterans also must travel great lengths to a federal facility instead of receiving telehealth services by camera or phone, according to U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
But the VETS Act calls for the removal of this barrier by creating a licensure exemption to allow VA-credentialed healthcare professionals to work across state borders to perform telemedicine without having to obtain a new license in that state. What’s more, the act expands the definition of exempt healthcare professionals to include VA doctors, and removes the location requirement to allow for care regardless of where the healthcare professional or patient is located.