Bill for expanded military telemedicine coverage passed

A bill to expand telemedicine coverage for members of the military was passed as part of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed last week.

Under the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP), service members transitioning into civilian life receive 180 days of health insurance coverage. The new bill would cover an additional 180 days for health services provided through telemedicine.

Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-Pa.), pushed the bill aimed at increasing services for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"All too often, symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress do not appear until eight to ten months after deployment," Thompson said in a statement. "This reform will help those who serve our country transition to civilian life without the burden or fear of losing access to critical services at a time when they are needed most."

Thompson previously pushed through the 2011 STEP Act, which allows Defense healthcare providers to practice across state lines. A similar bill introduced in the House would give Medicare providers the same OK.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services grants to Maine, Montana and Alaska will provide $300,000 each to improve services to veterans in remote areas. The grants are aimed at detecting and treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and other injuries.

The Department of Defense has embraced telemedicine, especially in providing mental health services. It updated its mood tracker smartphone app with new features and developed a biofeedback app that can be used outside a clinical setting.

The Army, which has been using telemedicine since 1992, is transitioning from fixed-based access sites to highly mobile programs using cell phones. Though 55 percent of its telemedicine services deal with behavioral health issues, they also cover a range of specialties including cardiology, dermatology, infectious diseases, neurosurgery, pain management and orthopedic surgery.

To learn more:
- read Thompson's statement
- here's the bill(.pdf)

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