Bill expanding telehealth services to veterans, active-duty service members introduced in Washington
(ED NOTE: This is not a state bill, as are some bills, but a Federal one, which is quite broad and powerful, and shows that government is adapting to changes in the Medical landscape and technology)
WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced H.R. 3507, the 21st Century Care for Military & Veterans Act.
This bipartisan legislation would expand coverage of telehealth services to active-duty servicemembers, their dependents, retirees, and veterans.
Because of provider shortages at local practices, many servicemembers and veterans lack access to a primary care physician, and in rural and underserved communities patients often must travel extended distances to see a healthcare provider.
The bill would establish and expand reimbursement policies covering the use of telehealth services, including essential mental health monitoring, under TRICARE and the VA.
“Often times telehealth provides the best care available and as a wounded combat Vietnam veteran, I understand that our servicemembers, veterans and their families have earned and deserve the best,” said Thompson. “This bill will make sure our men and women of the Armed Forces and their families can get the highest quality care in a timely manner no matter where they live or how far away they are from the doctor they need to see. It’s the right thing to do for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”
“As we look for ways to provide the best-quality care for our servicemembers and veterans, telehealth technologies are increasingly important to the full range of options we should be offering,” Peters said. “We’ve already seen that these technologies create a more responsive and more efficient health care system that provide for better care and lower costs. That’s the type of commonsense approach that can make a real difference in military and veterans communities in San Diego and across the country.”
The legislation introduced today would leverage innovative technologies already in use today – including audio and video conferencing, smart devices, and remote monitoring – to bring the doctor to the patient.
Telehealth technologies, in their various forms, bring a host of benefits including improved patient outcomes, decreased disparities and variations in care, and vastly expanded options for outpatient health treatments.
The VA has already seen both clinical and cost-saving benefits through telehealth technologies, including a 40 percent reduction in bed days and an 87 percent reduction in annual per-patient cost between when compared to existing home-based care programs.
In addition to Peters and Thompson, the bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Gregg Harper (R-MS-3) Peter Welch (D-VT At-Large).
H.R. 3507 has been endorsed by the American Telemedicine Association.
Thompson represents California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.