House Lawmakers Introduce New Medicare Telehealth Coverage Bill

July 9, 2015 in News

On Tuesday, a group of four lawmakers introduced a new version of a House bill (HR 2948) that would gradually expand telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries, mHealthNews reports (Wicklund, mHealthNews, 7/8).


Last year, Thompson and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) introduced bipartisan legislation (HR 5380) that would incrementally allow Medicare to cover telehealth and remote patient monitoring services over a four-year period.

The bill would have:

  • Expanded coverage to include urban areas with populations of 100,000 people;
  • Expanded acceptable care sites to include retail clinics;
  • Allowed reimbursement for outpatient services delivered via telehealth;
  • Required the U.S. comptroller to conduct a study examining the efficacy and potential savings to Medicare from telehealth; and
  • Expanded Medicare reimbursable services to include remote patient management services for chronic health conditions (iHealthBeat, 7/24/2014).

Bill Details

The new bill, called the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015, is co-sponsored by Reps.:

  • Mike Thompson (D-Calif.)
  • Gregg Harper (R-Miss.);
  • Diane Black (R-Tenn.); and
  • Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The new bill calls for a three-phase approach to expanding telehealth coverage in Medicare. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allow remote patient monitoring for patients with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes;
  • Consider a beneficiary’s home as an allowable site of care for home dialysis, home health services, certain outpatient mental health services and hospice care;
  • Expand access for telestroke services; and
  • Remove geographic barriers for rural, underserved and metropolitan areas.

In addition, the bill would expand the list of providers who are eligible to offer telehealth services

to include:

  • Audiologists;
  • Occupational therapists;
  • Physical therapists;
  • Respiratory therapists; and
  • Speech language pathologists (Dolan, MobiHealthNews, 7/8).

Industry Support

The bill is backed by several industry stakeholders, including the:

  • American Association for Respiratory Care;
  • American Speech-Language Hearing Association;
  • American Telemedicine Association;
  • National Association for the Support of Long Term Care;
  • National Rural Health Association;
  • Remote Cardiac Services Providers Group; and
  • Telecommunications Industry Association.

In a statement, ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous said, “This bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward in removing artificial restrictions to telehealth access for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.” He added, “ATA supports this legislation because it supports our mission to ensure parity for telehealth technology in the delivery of care” (mHealthNews, 7/8).

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