Legislation was recently introduced to increase the use of telemedicine in this country. The Medicare Telehealth Enhancement Act (H.R 2068) was introduced by Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Lee Terry (R-NE), and Sam Johnson (R-TX) to bring telemedicine into new settings and increase the pool of Medicare providers eligible to participate in telehealth programs.
The legislation would provide $30 million in grant funding to be available through HRSA’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth. Basically, the funding would help health facilities pay for telehealth equipment and to improve telecommunications facilities.
The grant funding would provide for:
- Instruction in the use of the telehealth equipment and acquisition of instructional programming
- Demonstration projects to teach or train medical students residents and other health profession students in rural or medically underserved training sites
- Telenursing services to provide for care coordination and to promote patient self-management skills
- Services to promote patient understanding for common chronic diseases
- Projects that use telehealth to facilitate collaboration between healthcare providers
- Electronic archival of patient records
- Collection and analysis of usage statistics and data to show the cost-effectiveness of the telehealth services
The legislation would also increase originating sites and provide for the reimbursement of telehealth services when provided by a home health agency to individuals in the home. The legislation would expand home health remote patient management services coverage to additional chronic health conditions.
Studies have shown that remote patient management services have failed to expand because of the relative lack of payment mechanisms in fee for services. The legislation calls for remote technologies payments to be made on a separate basis and not be combined with payments for other services. The payment codes used for reporting and billing for payments for these services should be revised or adjusted to encourage the application of these services for other medical conditions.