Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation that would authorize an incremental expansion of telehealth coverage under the Medicare program.
Medicare restrictions on telehealth services often are cited by critics as major policy barriers to greater use of the technology in healthcare, preventing patients and providers from taking advantage of advancements in telemedicine. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 (H.R. 2948) seeks to expand Medicare coverage and reimbursement of telehealth services, putting them on the path toward payment parity with in-person healthcare visits, according to Thompson.
The bill would phase in the expansion of telehealth services in several key areas by:
*Removing geographic barriers under current law and allowing the provision of telehealth services in rural, underserved, and metropolitan areas;
*Expanding the list of providers and related covered service that are eligible to provide telehealth services to include respiratory therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, and audiologist;
*Increasing access to telestroke services, regardless of where the patient is located;
*Allowing remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes; and
*Permitting the beneficiarys home to serve as a site of care for home dialysis, hospice care, eligible outpatient mental health services, and home health services.
Among other stakeholder groups, the American Telemedicine Association supports the proposed legislation.
Rep. Thompsons bill will help Medicare better serve millions of beneficiaries by providing more access to telemedicine technology that delivers quality treatment in a cost-effective way, said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of ATA, in a written statement. The bills sponsors understand, from years of experience with Medicaid plans in their states, that access to telemedicine improves healthcare delivery and outcomes.
The legislation has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees.
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