House panel adds telehealth to healthcare reform bill

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Image source: Telemedicine provides access to neurologists with expertise in stroke care.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee included several provisions supporting telehealth into healthcare reform legislation this week.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said the panel approved several proposals that would eliminate some of the hurdles the technology faces, according to CNNMoney.

In early May, Reps. Thompson, Bart Stupak, D-Mich., Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Sam Johnson, R-Texas, introduced bipartisan legislation that would expand Medicare reimbursement to more facilities in urban and suburban areas for the use of telehealth equipment and services. That legislation sought to provide $30 million in grant funding to help healthcare facilities pay for the telehealth equipment and to expand support services.

Currently, about 80 percent of Americans do not have access to telemedicine facilities because of restrictions that limit funding for these types of facilities to rural and underserved areas.

Thompson's approved proposals would streamline the process by allowing doctors to carry their credentials with them, regardless of what state their patient is in, a standard already approved by the Joint Commission, CNNMoney reported. Other segments of Thompson's telehealth legislation adopted by the Ways and Means Committee would establish a telehealth advisory committee that would make recommendations to the government and expand Medicare's coverage of using telehealth at standalone kidney dialysis centers.

However, the latest proposals do not address the complicated subject of licensing physicians to practice across state boundaries.