ATA Applauds Congressional Proposal to Increase Telemedicine Reimbursement, Fix Licensure for Federal Health Programs

The American Telemedicine Association strongly endorses a comprehensive bill, introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would increase federal support and payments for telehealth services. The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719,) sponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA 1), would establish a federal reimbursement policy, wherein “no [medical] benefit covered shall be excluded solely because it is furnished via a telecommunications system.” If passed, the bill would increase access to telemedicine within Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), TRICARE, federal employee health plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In addition to removing arbitrary coverage restrictions to telemedicine, the Thompson bill provides a new federal standard for medical licensure. Consistent with legislation already passed by Congress for military healthcare, providers in all federal health plans would only need to be licensed in the state of their physical location and would be free to treat eligible patients anywhere in the nation.

“This is a major step forward in Congressional support for telemedicine and would extend the benefits of telehealth and mHealth to nearly 75 million Americans,” said Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer of the American Telemedicine Association. “Representative Thompson clearly understands that telemedicine is a value—for patients, for the government and for the American tax payer. We encourage other legislators to support this win-win bill, which will improve healthcare and decrease federal health expenditures.”

The bill also proposes a series of improvements in existing Medicare and Medicaid programs, all of which would significantly augment the role and impact of telemedicine.

These changes include: 
  • incentivizing hospitals to lower readmissions with telemedicine, by offering them a share of the total cost savings
  • expansion of the “Medical Home” coordinated-care option
  • exempting Accountable Care Organizations from telehealth fee-for-service restrictions and allowing ACOs to use telemedicine as an equivalent substitute for in-person care
  • launching new pilot programs for remote patient monitoring for up to 10 HHS-designated conditions
  • adjusting reimbursement timelines for home health to better facilitate remote patient monitoring
  • creating a telemedicine service option in Medicaid to treat high-risk pregnancies
“This bill represents a panacea for federal involvement in telemedicine, eliminating archaic barriers and expanding opportunities for remote healthcare. If passed, this bill will almost instantly make our Federally-funded health system more effective and more efficient,” said Linkous.

ATA urges its members and all telemedicine stakeholders to contact their Congressional representatives and express their support for the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012.

About the American Telemedicine Association

The American Telemedicine Association is the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies. ATA and its diverse membership work to fully integrate telemedicine into healthcare systems to improve quality, equity and affordability of healthcare throughout the world. Established in 1993, ATA is headquartered in Washington, DC. For more information visit www.americantelemed.org.

Contact

Ben Forstag 
Sr. Director of Communications
American Telemedicine Association
202-223-1721
bforstag@americantelemed.org