Congress looks to erase telemedicine barriers for veterans

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Three years after pushing through a bill to enable veterans to receive telemedicine services across state lines, two Congressmen are launching another bill aimed at removing even more barriers.

Introduced on May 22, the "Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015" (H.R. 2516), would enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to push needed telehealth services – particularly behavioral and mental health services  to veterans no matter where they are. Current laws mandate that both physician and veteran be at a federally-owned facility.

“When our service men and women are called to duty, they do so selflessly with only the country in mind,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., who co-sponsored the bill, said in a press release. “When they return home, it is our shared duty to be there for these heroes, by making lifesaving resources readily accessible. (This bill) will eliminate multiple layers of bureaucracy, allowing our veterans to have greater access to mental and behavioral health services, especially in rural areas."

“I am proud to introduce this legislation that is really about fulfilling our duty to our veterans who so valiantly served our nation," added co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., in the release. "Allowing veterans easy access to the care they need is the least we can do. Until veterans truly have full access to the proper care they need, we have not yet fulfilled our duty to repay our service members for their bravery and heroism."

The bill would allow VA providers, including those contracted by the department, to practice telemedicine across state borders as long as they're qualified to do so. It would also enable them to treat veterans wherever they're located - including their homes, clinics and community health centers – relieving veterans of the burden of travelling to a VA facility.

Thompson and Rangel joined forces three years ago to launch "The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2012" (H.R. 6107), which enabled healthcare providers affiliated with the VA to deliver telemedicine across state lines, eliminating the requirement that both they and their patients be in the same state.

Joining Thompson and Rangel to co-sponsor this latest bill are U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., Lois Capps, C-Calif., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y., Jim McDermott, D-Wash., Jared Polis, D-Colo., Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., and Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam.

See also:

Audit: VA telehealth program is missing veterans who really need it

VA looks to invest heavily in mHealth, telehealth