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Update for Pending Legislation Supporting Telemedicine: TELE-MED Act of 2013

TELE-MED Act of 2013Largely due to Health Care Reform through the Affordable Care Act, significant policy developments are starting to occur with regularity and great promise for telemental health.

According to the Center for Connected Health Policy’s (CCHP) summary and comparison of HR 3077 to existing law, the TELE-MED Act of 2013 proposes many pivotal services that involve significant changes to U.S. licensing and reimbursement policies, including essential functions such as consultation. For example, it states: “A Medicare-participating physician or an out-of-state practitioner providing services via practitioner may provide a telemedicine service to a patient located in another state without obtaining a license, or being legally authorized by the patient state to provide such service.”

What does that mean?

If this Bill passes, you can be reimbursed for serving as a consultant to another professional in a foreign state who is with a client/patient via videoconferencing. In that scenario, the local, treating professional is a responsible party. This model has been tested and success rates have been reported for decades in the traditional telehealth literature. The TELE-MED Act of 2013 is an attempt to codify and therefore legitimize the important function that many specialists can serve to help general practitioners deliver improved, local services quickly and  inexpensively to those who need it the most.

Why care about laws that mention Medicare?

Changes in Medicare are directly relevant to all providers because Medicare sets the pace for all other reimbursement groups, including 3rd party payers.

Congressmen Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)’s TELE-MED Act of 2013 is a pending piece of federal legislation that will:

  • Affect cross-state licensing for Medicare-based telehealth, and
  • Require “telemedicine” definition and expansion guidance from the Secretary of HHS.

NTRC-P’s fact sheet on HR 3077 includes a comparison of the bill’s draft proposals and existing law, an analysis of the bill’s key points, and a review of anticipated impacts if the bill is passed.

Those of you who have heard me speak on this topic will recognize the issues as those I refer to as the “innies” and the “outies.” This Bill is one to watch. According to FierceHealthIT, it has already received widespread support from over 64 groups.

What about allied health professionals?

If you are an allied health professional, how can you help your profession be represented in these laws? In my speaking with a number of these groups, they are not fully aware of our services or roles in the health care system. We often are not represented at the table when laws are being proposed. (In reading the fact sheet above, note that the terms used are “telemedicine” and “physician” and not the more inclusive “telehealth”  or”provider.” We at TMHI hope the medical world will take note that terminology needs to change to include allied health professionals.)

Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP)

The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to maximize telehealth’s ability to improve health outcomes, care Telehealth is poised to improve access and outcomes, particularly among medically underserved communities, and to improve the

• Advocates for policies that expand telehealth program adoption;
• Conducts objective research and policy analysis;
• Develops nonpartisan policy recommendations;
• Operates telehealth demonstration projects.

In its work as the federally designated National Telehealth Policy Resource Center (NTRC-P),  CCHP provides technical assistance to twelve Regional Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) nationwide, and serves as a national resource on telehealth policy issues.

See our previous ACA-related TMHI  posts:

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