Aug. 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

How Telemedicine Could Change Medicare | Commentary

At the VA, only one active, unrestricted state license is required to practice in every VA facility across all 50 states, a policy that has proved to be successful for improved patient outcomes and reduced costs.

Assessments have shown a 53 percent reduction in bed days or hospitalizations for those under the home telehealth program and a 25 percent reduction through clinical video telehealth. The programs have also saved nearly $2,000 per patient per year.

The DOD and VA, just like Medicare, are federal programs, so federal rules apply. Unlike the VA and DOD, Congress has not yet made the necessary changes to the Medicare law to promote telemedicine across state lines. That should be fixed.

Fortunately, bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., would do just that. The bill lifts geographic licensure restrictions in Medicare, just as Congress eliminated these restrictions for the DOD and VA, by allowing Medicare providers to treat Medicare patients electronically across state lines without the need to obtain multiple state licenses.

If the VA experience can be duplicated in Medicare, seniors and the disabled can expect increased access to care. Taxpayers and beneficiaries will reap the benefits of lower costs. The bill also creates a refreshing opportunity for those on both sides of the aisle to work together on health care legislation.

Access and cost issues will plague Medicare for the foreseeable future. I am hopeful the Nunes-Pallone bill will be enacted this Congress so seniors, the disabled and taxpayers can begin realizing the benefits Congress has already established for veterans and servicemembers.

Joel White is the executive director of the Health IT Now Coalition.

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