On Wednesday July 9th, the Senate passed the comprehensive Medicare legislation. This legislation with a number of important issues of importance to the Medicare community will also expand the list of telehealth originating sites to include hospital-based renal dialysis centers, skilled nursing facilities, and community mental health centers. The vote was the second attempt at passing this legislation after a vote for cloture failed in June.
The Medicare legislation was important enough for Senator Edward Kennedy to make an unexpected trip to Washington to vote for the bill. When Senator Kennedy appeared on the Senate floor as the roll was being called, the entire Senate gave him a resounding and sustained standing ovation.
According to Reed Franklin, Senior Director of Public Policy ATA, the measure was called up after a 2 week intensive advocacy effort on the part of medical groups and senior citizens. The tally was 69-30, which is a sufficient margin to override the veto that President Bush has threatened.
The legislation now goes to the President for either his signature or veto. The administration has previously threatened to veto the Senate passed bill. It is still unclear as to whether the President will veto the bill given that both the House and the Senate passed the measure with sufficient margins to override a veto. It is likely that if there is a veto that it will be overridden.
Many thanks go out to all of the Senators and Representatives that championed for the legislation, to the many people in the telemedicine community who worked hard to see the legislation passed, to all the support and guidance at ATA, and to Bob Waters and the Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law.