by Liz Seegert
Two exciting developments surrounding health technology, Medicare payments, and IT acquisition are already in the works in the 113th Congress.
We recently told you about a telehealth reimbursement bill introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5). (See HCTR, January 16, Lawmaker Proposes Government Health Insurance Cover Telehealth Services). His proposed legislation, HR 6719, is currently awaiting consideration by the House Subcommittee on Health. It recognizes telehealth as a cost-effective service alternative and removes Medicare reimbursement limits.
It requires Medicare and other federal agencies to consider "service…by an individual or entity via a telecommunications system shall be covered to the same extent the item or service would be covered if furnished in the same location of the beneficiary, and benefits shall not be denied under either such part solely on the basis that the item or service is being furnished via a telecommunications system."
In a statement to HCTR, a spokesman reiterated Rep. Thompson's strong commitment to health technology as key to cost-cutting and cost savings under the Affordable Care Act. "The Congressman is a longtime supporter of telemedicine, going back to his days in the California state legislature. He sees telehealth as a way to save money, provide access to health care, and improve quality of care."
HR 6719 was first introduced in late December, during the waning days of the 112th Congress, but legislative rules require that it be resubmitted after the 113th Congress was sworn in. Rep. Thompson is working with other members on this process and is optimistic about gaining support from both House and Senate members. Thompson is currently gathering comments and suggestions from several interested groups prior to reintroduction.
Thompson said "health technology and telemedicine can be useful tools to reduce expensive trips to far away specialists and also to reduce emergency visits to hospitals by helping patients monitor and control chronic conditions—this is in line with the goals of the ACA. Telemedicine should be another tool in a health practitioner's toolbox to keep patients healthy and, hopefully, to reduce costs."
New York Congresswoman proposes health IT loan guarantees
In a separate push for more widespread adoption of health IT, Representative Nydia Velasquez (D-NY-7) introduced H.R. 28, which amends the Small Business Act "to provide loan guarantees for the acquisition of health information technology by eligible professionals in solo and small group practices and for other purposes." The bill will help small providers meet meaningful EHR use requirements through low-interest federal loan guarantees for up to 90 percent of the cost of purchasing hardware, software, and systems. The bill is currently under review by the House Committee on Small Business.
HCTR will continue to monitor both of these bills as they make their way through the legislative process.
Liz Seegert is a freelance healthcare writer based in New York. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2012 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com