Amid broad support, the Medical Board of California pushes back on VA’s telehealth rule

David Shulkin and Donald Trump
The Medical Board of California was the only organization to raise concerns about the VA's new physician licensing rule.

A proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs to override state licensing laws that will serve as the backbone for a nationwide telehealth program received broad support from health IT and provider organizations alike.

There was just one exception: California.

In comments (PDF) submitted by the Medical Board of California, executive director Kimberly Kirchmeyer said her organization is concerned that the VA rule would “undermine California’s ability to protect healthcare consumers” because the board wouldn’t be able to discipline VA providers that don’t hold a California license.

RELATED: VA proposed rule would override state licensing restrictions to expand access to telehealth

“The board believes that it is very important for physicians treating patients in California to be licensed in California," she wrote. "Without this licensure, enforcement for allegations of wrongdoing would be impossible to investigate and public protection would not occur.”

But California was the rule’s lone dissenter. Provider organizations and health IT trade groups were unilaterally supportive of the new rule. Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White wrote (PDF) “artificial geographical restrictions” have limited the use of telehealth at the VA and said the rule would increase access to veterans, particularly those in rural parts of the country.

Health IT Now also threw its support behind the VETS Act, which would allow the VA to practice telemedicine across state lines. That bill is scheduled for a markup in the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Thursday. 

RELATED: VA expands telehealth services with new ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ initiative

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) offered (PDF) similar praise, noting that the rule would allow the VA to use its resources more efficiently and “facilitate modern, beneficiary- and family-centered healthcare delivery.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians is one of several provider groups to offer its support (PDF) despite the fact that the organization has historically opposed any federal efforts to supersede state licensure restrictions. However, AAFP cautioned the VA “to not substitute telehealth services for providing veterans access to meaningful and comprehensive primary medical care” and advocated for a number of changes that would facilitate better access to in-person care.

The rule is a key feature of the VA’s “Anywhere to Anywhere” program unveiled in August, which allows veterans to connect with physicians using a mobile app.