House passes bill expanding VA telehealth across state lines

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The House of Representatives has unanimously passed the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (HR 2123), which seeks to remove restrictions on VA healthcare providers that want to practice telehealth across state lines.

The legislation, introduced by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), authorizes a VA licensed provider to practice telemedicine in any state, regardless of whether or not the patient or provider is located on federal government property.

Currently, 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 telemedicine across state lines as long as they are qualified and practice within the scope of their authorized federal duties.

Also See: VA to expand telehealth services for veterans nationwide

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

“The passage of our bill in the House today marks a major step toward our goal of expanding the VA’s ability to provide better, more accessible care to our veterans—including right in their own homes,” said Brownley. “New technologies provide us with better ways to provide care for veterans and tailor it to their unique needs, and we need to capitalize on that innovation. I thank Congressman Thompson for his leadership on this bipartisan effort, and I look forward to working with our Senate counterparts to get this bill signed into law.”

Health IT Now, coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, praised House passage of the VETS Act and urged the Senate to do the same.

“Telehealth has revolutionized the way we deliver health care 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,” said Joel White, executive director of Health IT Now. “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.”

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