TELE-MED bill wins support from AHIMA, 63 other groups

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A group of 64 organizations and businesses has sent a letter to Congress in support of the TELEhealth for MEDicare (TELE-MED) Act of 2013, calling the bill "a solid step in expanding access to care while lowering costs for consumers through telehealth."

Those signing the letter to bill sponsors Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., include the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the Health IT Now Coalition, The Rural Broadband Association, Wellpoint and Verizon.

State and national business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers also signed, as did the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and several healthcare advocacy groups.

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The bill, HR 3077, was introduced Sept. 10 and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It would allow Medicare providers to treat patients electronically across state lines without having to obtain multiple state medical licenses.

"The convergence of medical advances, health information technology, and a nationwide broadband network are transforming the delivery of care to citizens by bringing the health care provider and patient together virtually, especially those in disadvantaged areas," the letter said.

The letter expresses strong support for the bill's effort to "remove obsolete policy barriers that prevent Medicare patients from receiving technology enabled, modern healthcare."

In a letter released shortly after the bill's introduction, Joel White, executive director of the Health IT Now Coalition, lamented the "hoops and hurdles" providers must jump through to treat Medicare patients across state lines.

"Limiting the number of doctors available in any one state to treat Medicare beneficiaries--who, due to disease, transportation or mobility issues, are often not able to travel long distances to receive the care they need--not only decreases access to care, but also increases costs and harms patient outcomes," White wrote.

In a Fresno Bee opinion piece, the CEO of the nonprofit community health center Clinica Sierra Vista, talks about his support for the bill.

"Under current law, when it comes to practicing telehealth, physicians' hands are tied. Health care providers are required to have multiple state medical licenses and adhere to multiple state rules to provide virtual care across state lines," writes CEO Steve Schilling. "This outdated system of state medical licensure laws is preventing the widespread use of telemedicine and preventing patient access to quality health care."

Schilling called telemedicine a virtual house call via a tablet or desktop computer, and said the lifting of geographic licensing restrictions for Medicare providers would be welcome news for practitioners and rural residents across the country.

For more information:
- here's the bill, HR 3077
- read White's letter
- see Schilling's commentary

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