January 10, 2014 By InTouch Health
The 2013 Congressional agenda was marked by gridlock and disagreement on many fronts. That’s why it’s encouraging that 2014 is starting in a more gracious, bipartisan spirit – especially when it comes to telemedicine.
A lot of the credit goes to Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican who could be a surprise contender for the 2016 Presidential nomination. But Thune is getting a lot of help from Senate Democrats like Oregon’s Ron Wyden and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow.
Early this year, the Senate Finance Committee took two bold and unexpected moves: approving Thune-authored amendments that would improve Medicare coverage for telemedicine services. The first lifts restrictions on the use of telemedicine for any health system using an alternative payment model (such as ACOs) beginning in 2017. The second establishes a Medicare demonstration program for remote patient monitoring by home health agencies and other entities.
The proposed lifting of restrictions on ACOs and medical homes is a huge victory for telemedicine advocates because it would allow those entities to have the same telemedicine flexibility enjoyed by Medicare’s managed care plans.
The two amendments ensure that Sen. Thune’s Fostering Independence Through Technology Act (S.596) and other measures can move forward this year. It’s heartening that legislators from both sides of the aisle are becoming ardent telemedicine supporters. So here’s the Bipartisanship Honor Roll with regard to telemedicine:
Republicans – Thune, Roberts, Enzi.
Democrats: Wyden, Stabenow, Rockefeller, and Casey.
Telemedicine advocates have worked tirelessly to advance these amendments, and we salute the Senate’s “Magnificent Seven” for working together as colleagues, not combatants.