The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a final rule that allows VA providers to offer telehealth services from anywhere in the country to veterans nationwide, waiving state provider licensing requirements that limit access to care.
According to the VA, the rule, “Authority of Health Care Providers to Practice Telehealth,” ensures that VA health care providers can offer the same level of care to all beneficiaries, irrespective of the state or location in a state of the VA health care provider or the beneficiary.
In the rule, the VA states, “Just as it is critical to ensure there are qualified health care providers on-site at all VA medical facilities, VA must ensure that all beneficiaries, specifically including beneficiaries in remote, rural, or medically underserved areas, have the greatest possible access to mental health care, specialty care, and general clinical care.” The VA developed a telehealth program to enhance the agency’s capacity to deliver essential and critical health care services.
Without this rulemaking, healthcare providers who provide services via telehealth in states where they are not licensed “jeopardize their credentials, including fines and imprisonment for unauthorized practice of medicine, because of conflicts between VA's need to provide telehealth across the VA system and some states' laws or requirements for licensure, registration, certification, that restrict the practice of telehealth,” the VA states.
This final rulemaking clarifies that VA health care providers may exercise their authority to provide health care through the use of telehealth, notwithstanding any state laws, rules, licensure, registration, or certification requirements to the contrary, the rule states.
Health IT Now praised the final regulation, noting that it “accomplishes the objectives of the bicameral, bipartisan VETS Act, legislation championed by Health IT Now and sponsored by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in the Senate, and by Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Julia Brownley (D-CA) in the House.” The VETS Act passed both the House and Senate with unanimous support, though with technical differences between the two bills.
Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said, in a prepared statement, “This final rule is a victory for our nation's heroes - particularly those in rural areas - who deserve access to prompt medical care when and where they need it. We will also continue advocating for final passage of the VETS Act as we believe it is crucial to ensuring this regulation can never be revoked.”
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