Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Hearing on Telehealth Shows Need to Update Nation’s Laws, Expand Access and Lower Costs

HITN Calls on Congress to Act

(Washington, D.C.) – The House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee will discuss the important topic of telehealth and expanding access to care in today’s hearing, “Telehealth to Digital Medicine: How 21st Century Technology Can Benefit Patients.” Tremendous innovation in telehealth has the potential to improve outcomes for patients across the U.S. including seniors, rural patients, and more.

The Subcommittee will hear from witnesses including providers, academics and Parkinson’s patient Gary Chard. Chard’s testimony on behalf of the Parkinson’s Action Network, a Health IT Now Member, will discuss how telehealth can help fill existing gaps in our health care system. By remotely connecting to a physician or specialist, patients are able to receive quality care by bringing the doctor to the patient. Connecting in person with a doctor is easier said than done for many Americans, especially those who live in rural areas or who live with complex medical conditions.

Joel White, Executive Director of the Health IT Now Coalition, applauded the Subcommittee’s decision to discuss advances in telehealth. “I’m encouraged that the Health Subcommittee, and especially Representative Pitts and Pallone, have decided to take up the critical issue of expanding access to telehealth. Congressional action is necessary to achieve the improvements in care, access, and cost that telehealth can provide,” said White.  “Telehealth can save costs and save lives,” White added.

“But first, we must identify and break down the barriers that inhibit 21st Century care.  While Congress has already succeeded in implementing a national telehealth framework for members of the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration, they have not done so in Medicare,” White added.

“Instead of the fractured and archaic system of licensure laws that characterizes our current system, Congress should enact H.R. 3077, the bipartisan TELE-MED Act.  This bill would allow Medicare providers to treat their Medicare patients across state lines, via telehealth, without having to obtain a separate license in the other state. Seniors should not be denied access to care that has been proven effective for Members of the Military, Veterans, and their families. We urge the Committee to quickly mark up and adopt this commonsense legislation.”

Quick Facts

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) have effectively implemented a national telehealth framework working in conjunction with state medical boards.
  • In 2011, the President signed into law the Service Members’ Telehealth and E-Health Portability Act (STEP), which expanded the Department of Defense (DOD) state licensure exemption to allow credentialed health care professionals to work across state borders without having to obtain a new state license. It also expanded the definition of an exempt health care professional to include qualified DOD civilians and contractors, while removing the current service location requirement to allow for care regardless of where the health care professional or patient is located.
  • The VA increased their workforce through a successful one license and practice anywhere in the VA system recruitment campaign. The VA has moved to mostly eliminate cost sharing on telehealth, treating veterans at home is less expensive than treating them in a VA facility.
  • VA’s home telehealth benefit has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in hospital admissions and a 20 percent decrease in hospital stays. The average annual cost per patient of VA’s home telehealth program adds up to $1,600, a substantial savings over the $13,000 for direct home care or $77,000 for nursing home care.