Lawmakers push telestroke bill to increase access for Medicare patients

When someone is suffering from a stroke, time is of the essence, which is why two House lawmakers are proposing a bill that would change when Medicare beneficiaries can receive telestroke services.

The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act (H.R. 2799) Act, created by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), would change a current law that allows telestroke care only if a patient is at a rural hospital.

Many victims of stroke live in urban or suburban areas, they write at The Hill, and may face barriers to quick access to care. The FAST Act can "not only ... increase the number of Medicare beneficiaries who receive the recommended stroke treatment, but ... will ultimately save Medicare and Medicaid money," they say.

Griffith and Beatty call the bill a win-win for stroke victims, their families, and Congress, and go on to urge co-sponsorship from fellow House members.

Another House bill, by California Democrat Mike Thompson, also focuses on expanding telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 would provide payment parity for an expanded list of telehealth services available to Medicare beneficiaries.

In addition, while a recent study on use of telemedicine to assess strokes found the process takes slightly longer than in-person care, it remains an effective and safe option, especially when no stroke specialist is available, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

One provider using telestroke to help patients is Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. The hospital launched a telemedicine network to provide stroke care to rural patients in Central Pennsylvania, which started off with five initial partners in 2012 and doubled in size by 2014.

To learn more:
- here's The Hill article