New Bill Would Expand Government Reimbursement for Telehealth Services

A bipartisan bill aimed at expanding Medicare and Medicaid coverage for telehealth services has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, introduced by Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), would adjust Medicare payments for home health services to account for the use of remote patient monitoring and provide coverage for home-based video services for homebound or hospice beneficiaries, among other reforms.

"These efforts began with a conversation about physician shortages and concerns with patients' access to quality and affordable healthcare," said the bill's authors in a letter to colleagues, according to a news release from Rep. Harper's office. "Until we are able to attract more physicians to rural communities and tighten the access gap, the next best alternative is to use technology to connect health professionals with underserved populations – rural and urban – through telehealth networks."

The American Telemedicine Association is a strong supporter of the bill. "We appreciate the representatives’ leadership to craft a budget-sensitive package with strategic measures that will improve healthcare accessibility and affordability," said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of ATA. "These provisions are critical to the future of healthcare in the U.S. in that they will save Medicare and Medicaid dollars, and improve lives."

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