Telemedicine bill enables VA providers to practice across state lines

Telemedicine services for veterans get a shot in the arm in a new bipartisan supported bill introduced in the House last week.

The bill--the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2012 (H.R. 6107)--would remove restrictions that currently prevent providers with the Department of Veterans Affairs from practicing across state lines if they aren't licensed in the same state as the patients they are treating. According to Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who introduced the bill along with Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), veterans with mental health issues will benefit greatly from such a change.

"This bill enables the VA to expand key treatment services, including behavioral health, which is critical considering the department is facing increasing care demand and mounting provider shortages," Thompson said in a statement.

According to an announcement by Rangel, 11 other representatives have joined as co-sponsors of the bill, which also was endorsed by the American Telemedicine Association, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The bill was proposed on the heels of the VA's announcement last week that it was launching a three-year, $15 million pilot to test the potential of providing long-distance specialty training and support to rural primary care providers who treat veterans, a program dubbed Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO).

Last month, the VA announced that it has set a goal of providing 200,000 remote consultations in 2012 through videoconferencing. And earlier in the year, the VA announced that it no longer would charge veterans a co-payment for any telehealth services.

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

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