A new bill introduced in the U.S. House would provide payment parity for an expanded list of telehealth services available to Medicare beneficiaries.
California Democrat Mike Thompson introduced the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 with support from Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
"Telehealth allows physicians to provide more patients with better healthcare, but while we've witnessed much advancement in the field of telemedicine, our policies still lag behind," Thompson said in an announcement.
The bill would:
- Remove geographic barriers under current law and allow telehealth services in rural, underserved and metropolitan areas
- Expand the list of eligible providers to include respiratory therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist and audiologist
- Expand access to telestroke services, regardless of where the patient is located
- Allow remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes
- Cover care at home for dialysis, hospice care, eligible outpatient mental health services and home health services
The Thompson bill will remove artificial barriers to Medicare coverage for these telehealth services, according to an American Telemedicine Association statement. The changes would be enacted in three phases to achieve parity between in-person and telehealth coverage.
The first phase is designed to be budget sensitive and will provide strategic improvements, such as for federally-funded community health centers and remote patient monitoring to reduce hospital readmissions.
Thompson introduced bills to expand telemedicine coverage in 2009, in 2013 and last year.