Review the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719) Historically, one of the greatest barriers to practicing online has been licensure. Currently, health care professional’s licenses are regulated by each state with idiosyncratic, complicated and occasionally contradictory laws, regulations and standards that differ from state to state. Our highly mobile, technologically connected society dictates freer patient access to health care providers regardless of location. In light of the growing importance of reducing health care costs, the inefficiency of the current system is particularly egregious. State-based licensure as it now stands, limits patient access to diverse providers and specialists, inhibits the healthy competition that can facilitate progress and cost-savings, and fails to address patient safety issues that result from state based professional discipline and sanctioning related to complaints, substandard care and infractions. Another safety and access issue pertains to continuity of care when the patient or provider travels away from their home state temporarily or permanently relocates to another state. These licensing issues have been addressed by our previous blogs:
- ATA Sponsors Briefing for Members of Congress re: National Licensure — January 31, 2012
- Sign the ATA Petition for National Licensure
- Important Telehealth Licensing Precedent is Set by the DOD
- Licensure & Practicing Over State Lines in Telepractice for Telemental Health and Online Therapy
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. military have successfully addressed licensure issues. Health care providers working at VA or military facilities are practicing on federal property. In order to practice on federal property, professionals must simply hold an active license in any state in the US. This system parallels the one currently in effect for driving, wherein a drivers license issued in any state allows a person to operative a motor vehicle in any other state. Professional groups and consumers have been clamoring for changes in the health care licensure system with little progress. However on January 3 2013, The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr6719ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr6719ih.pdf) sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill seeks to increase federal support for and reimbursement of telehealth services. A key feature of the bill promotes a new federal standard for licensure. This standard is consistent with the one currently operating in military and VA medical centers such that health care providers would only need to be licensed in the state where they physically practice with the freedom to deliver services to patients across the nation. The bill proposes that health care providers will be considered to be delivering services at their physical location regardless of the patient’s location. This clarification has important implications for reimbursement, licensure, and professional liability. The passage of this bill would represent considerable progress in the advancement of telehealth and reduction of barriers limiting practice across state lines. While the provisions of The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 specifically apply only to those services reimbursed through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Tricare, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Federal Employees Health, Dental and Vision Benefits Programs, the standards proposed could be a meaningful forerunner of broader changes ahead. We encourage you to contact your congressional representatives to let them know you support the passage of this bill as both a professional health care provider and as a private consumer. See our upcoming FREE webinar on January 21, 2013 for “12 Facts You Probably Won’t Learn from Your Licensing Board about Practicing Over State Lines (Licensure Portability).”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article and on this blog post are those of the authors. These do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, and position of the Telebehavioral Health Institute (TBHI). Any content written by the authors are their opinion and are not intended to malign any organization, company or individuals.