Telemedicine bill in Senate would expand rural coverage under Medicare

The latest telehealth bill to be introduced in the Senate, the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, would expand Medicare coverage to telemedicine services in rural areas, according to an announcement.

Sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), the bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to let rural hospitals test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and for CMI to evaluate telehealth models for cost, effectiveness and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of delivery.

"People living in rural Colorado should have access to the same healthcare services as those living in urban areas," Gardner says in the anouncement. "The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would pave the way for Medicare to expand coverage to additional telehealth services, and potentially provide those living with life-threatening conditions in rural America with more opportunities and more options to receive the care they need."

The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015, introduced in the House this summer, also seeks to remove geographic barriers, to allow telehealth services in rural, underserved and metropolitan areas. It also would expand the range of eligible providers to include respiratory therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and others.

Another bill in the Senate, the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2015 (VETS Act), would allow VA healthcare professionals to practice across state lines and conduct telehealth services, including mental healthcare treatment, with patients in their own homes.  It mirrors a similar bill in the House.

To learn more:
- find the announcement