President Bush on July 15th vetoed the Medicare bill but Congress overrode the veto and the legislation became law. The passage of the Medicare bill was of great concern due to the scheduled cuts in physician fees that would have taken place. The telemedicine community had a stake in the bill as well since the bill called for skilled nursing facilities, hospital-based dialysis centers, and community mental health centers to be telehealth/telemedicine originating sites and be reimbursed by Medicare. The legislation also has an important and timely provision for health IT interests because the Medicare legislation includes requirements for e-prescribing.
On June 24, the bill originally passed the House by a vote of 355 to 39 and then passed the Senate on July 9 by a vote of 69-30. However, on July 15, President Bush vetoed the bill, but then Congress was able to override the veto making the bill law. The House vote was 383 to 41 and the Senate vote was 70-26. The vote in both the Senate and the House exceeded the two-thirds required to override a presidential veto, meaning that the bill will become law despite the administration’s objections.
ATA has been actively involved in getting the legislation passed. According to Jonathan Linkous, Executive Director for the ATA, the law goes into effect January 1, 2009, but CMS needs to issue regulations detailing how it will be implemented. ATA will work very hard with CMS as they develop these regulations.
Many thanks go to all of the Senators and Representatives that contributed their support, to the telemedicine, telehealth, and the health IT community, to the tremendous support at ATA, to all the many people who made calls and visits to Capitol Hill, and to Bob Waters and the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law. The Medicare legislation became a reality because of their enormous efforts.