Three Industry Groups Call for Updated Telehealth Policies

June 19, 2014 in News

Three health care industry groups this week wrote separate letters to a House subcommittee calling for Congress to update “out-of-date” licensing and reimbursement policies for telemedicine, FierceHealthIT reports. 

The American Telemedicine Association, Health IT Now and the Telecommunications Industry Association all requested that members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health review current telemedicine regulations in order to increase patient access to telehealth services.

Details of ATA Letter

ATA’s letter encourages the passage of the Telehealth for Medicare Act of 2013 (HR 3077), which the group says would increase beneficiaries’ access to health care by allowing Medicare providers to practice across state borders without having to obtain an additional license.

In the letter, ATA recommends that:

  • Telemedicine services be covered and reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits; and
  • The subcommittee obtain a budget estimate for TELE-MED Act provisions from the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, ATA expressed its support of the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013 (HR 3306), noting that the organization would like Medicare accountable care organizations to be granted the ability to use telehealth services without fee-for-services restrictions.

Details of Health IT Now Letter

Health IT Now’s letter also calls for the passage of the TELE-MED Act, specifying that a public-private task force should be convened to further analyze the issue of state licensure as related to medical practices.

In addition, the group writes that:

  • A national, common definition and guidelines for telemedicine use should be developed;
  • A timeline should be established by Congress to achieve “semantic interoperability” by 2017; and
  • Congress should provide funding for collaborative interoperability initiatives within the private sector.

Details of TIA Letter

TIA’s letter calls for increased investments in telehealth and an update to telehealth licensing policies (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 6/18).

The organization writes that “outdated regulations that have restricted the use of telehealth have long been a hindrance to progress in this space.”

Further, TIA notes that meaningful use criteria “should adequately account for the full range of products, such as health IT medical remote monitoring,” that could further CMS’ goals (TIA letter, 6/16).

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

AMA Addresses Telehealth Policies

In related news, the American Medical Association recently announced its support for telemedicine but also provided several policy recommendations that, if implemented, would place certain restrictions on the use of such services.

For example, the group recommended that:

  • AMA work with CMS and other agencies to develop a reimbursement model for telemedicine care;
  • Physicians be required to be licensed in the state their patient is located; and
  • Physicians and other providers abide by the medical practice laws of the state where the patient is located.

AMA President Robert Wah in a statement said that his organization’s recommendations are meant to create a “foundation for physicians to utilize telemedicine to help maintain an ongoing relationship with their patients, and as a means to enhance follow-up care, better coordinate care and manage chronic conditions” (Ravindranath, Washington Post, 6/18).

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