Sunday, February 1, 2009

Telehealth Bills Introduced

Representative John T. Salazar from Colorado introduced HR 667 on January 23rd to improve the diagnosis and treatment for traumatic brain injuries. The bill would help expand telehealth and telemental health programs at DOD and the VA. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and to the Committee on Armed Services.

A few states have also made a few modifications or a few additions to their proposed bills concerning telemedicine. For example, the state of Washington has just added a new section to Senate Bill 5497 and House Bill 1529. The legislation relates to the delivery of home healthcare services using telemedicine.

The new section says that an in-person contact between a home healthcare provider and a patient is not required under the state’s medical assistance program for home healthcare services. The bill provides that care delivered via telemedicine and eligible for reimbursement needs to include healthcare professional oversight and intervention as appropriate but must still be medically necessary for a telemedicine visit.

Home healthcare services if delivered by telemedicine are covered by and reimbursed under the state’s Medicaid payment program. The department will establish the reimbursement rates, but the rates must be comparable to the rate currently paid for home health visits and reimbursement is not provided for the purchase or lease of telemedicine equipment.

Before treating a patient via telemedicine for the first time, the patient must sign a written statement. The written statement allows the patient to refuse the telemedicine care without it affecting future treatments, plus the patient has full rights to all medical information resulting from the telemedicine visit.

In New Mexico’s 2009 session, House bill 229 and companion Senate bill 199 provides for $2 million to go to the state Department of Information Technology to provide matching funds for a FCC allocation of $11, 300,000 million to the state. These funds are to be administered in collaboration with the University of New Mexico Center for Telehealth to help design, create, and implement a rural health telemedicine network.

Also $150,000 will be available to the Department of Health to use to contract with a nonprofit organization to implement a Health Information Exchange collaborative network to increase the capacity of existing telehealth services.

In New York State, legislation has been introduced to further study telemedicine in order to identify safety concerns, the effectiveness of the telehealth system, and examine patient privacy issues. The study will look at technical, legal and cost issues, barriers to developing telemedicine in the state, conduct surveys, look at other efforts in other states, solicit input from interested parties, advise the Governor and legislature on improving public polices related to telemedicine, make recommendations on integrating new and emerging technologies and applications, and make recommendations on using federal funds to the maximum extent possible.

The Wyoming legislature has recently introduced House bill HB 0281 and a companion bill in the Senate that would make it necessary for the Office of Rural Health to expand and implement telemedicine facilities and also create a statewide Electronic Health Information Exchange.

The Hawaiian legislature is supporting the expansion of telehealth services and technology. The bill SB 1676 supports the need to increase access to healthcare for rural residents living on the neighbor islands and Oahu. The legislation also makes it clear that physicians can use telemedicine as long as a licensed physician is providing services.