House committee passes bill expanding VA telehealth across state lines

Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act ensures access to healthcare, particularly for those vets living in rural areas.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Thursday passed a bill to remove restrictions on the ability of VA providers to practice telemedicine across state lines.

The Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (H.R. 2123) is meant to expand veterans’ ability to access quality healthcare, particularly for those living in rural areas of the country that are not in close proximity to a VA facility.

In August, VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced at a White House event with President Trump that the agency would be amending regulations to allow the VA’s healthcare providers to practice in any state when they are acting within the scope of their employment.

Also See: VA to expand telehealth services for veterans nationwide

Last month, the VA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would allow such telehealth providers to more easily administer care across state lines.

“H.R. 2123 would give the VA Secretary the legislative authority to allow VA providers to practice telemedicine across state lines,” said Phil Roe, MD (R-Tenn.), chairman House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Specifically, it would authorize a VA licensed healthcare provider to practice telemedicine in any state, regardless of whether or not the patient or provider is located on federal government property.”

Under current law, VA physicians can only waive state licensing requirements and provide telehealth treatment across state lines if both the veteran and the doctor are located in a federally owned facility. However, the VETS Act removes these barriers and would allow VA health professionals to practice telehealth across state lines provided they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized federal duties.

In addition, under provisions of the VETS Act, veterans would no longer be required to travel to a VA facility and instead could receive telemedicine treatment from any location, including their home or a community center.

The bill has received strong support from industry groups such as the American Telemedicine Association and Health IT Now.

“Improving access to care for our nation’s heroes deserves a multi-pronged approach, which is why Health IT Now fully supports both the VA proposed rule, as well as the VETS Act that would permanently enshrine this directive into law,” said Joel White, executive director of HITN. “This policy solution will be instrumental in breaking down geographic barriers that, for too long, have prevented our veterans from getting the health care services they need when and where they need it.”

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