The Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3306) to strengthen Medicare and enhance Medicaid through expanded telemedicine coverage was introduced October 23rd on Capitol Hill by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The bill calls for the adoption of payment innovations to include telehealth and to make other incremental improvements to existing telehealth coverage.
Provisions in the bill expected to save health funds would:
- Add incentives for fewer Medicare hospital readmissions
- Create a new Medicaid optional package for high-risk pregnancy and birth networks based on the success of state programs notably Arkansas ANGELS
- Cover telehealth services under Medicare payment bundles for post-acute care
- Allow Medicare ACOs to use telehealth the same as Medicare managed care plans
- Cover home-based video services for hospice care, homebound beneficiaries, and would provide for home-based kidney dialysis
Many associations are supporting the legislation including the American Telemedicine Association. “We appreciate the Congressional leadership to craft a budget-sensitive package with strategic measures that will improve healthcare accessibility and affordability”, said Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer of ATA. He added, “ATA supports the legislation because it takes a sensible approach to move aside government restrictions and allow patents to have access to health services wherever they are located.”
A second bill “The Sensible Oversight for Technology which Advances Regulatory Efficiency of 2013” or referred to as the “SOFTWARE Act of 2013” was introduced on October 22nd on Capitol Hill by Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Gene Green (D-TX), Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Greg Walden, (R-OR), and G.K Butterfield (D-NC).
According to a recent report, there are currently 97,000 mobile health apps in the Apple app store that generate 3 million free and 300,000 paid downloads. Fifteen percent of these apps are designed specifically for healthcare providers and over 60 percent of doctors are using tablets compared to half of that amount just over a year ago.
According to the Representatives, this bill is needed to provide regulatory clarity regarding mobile medical applications, clinical decision support, electronic health records, and other healthcare related software. The bill builds on the guidance recently released by FDA and provides for the regulatory certainty that technology companies need to continue to drive innovation and ensure patient safety.
ATA is already supporting two other bills previously introduced in the House. The first bill “Veteran E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2013” (H.R 2001) sponsored by Representative Charles Rangel that would help healthcare professionals treat veterans via telemedicine.
The second bill, “TELE-MED Act of 2013” (H.R. 3077) sponsored by Representative Devin Nunes would permit certain Medicare providers in a state to provide telemedicine services to Medicare beneficiaries in a different state.