STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - April 03, 2008)
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Ms. STABENOW. I am pleased to join with my good friend, Senator Kent Conrad, in introducing the Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act, which improves access for many Medicare beneficiaries by expanding telehealth services.
As Senator Conrad has noted, this legislation makes a number of technical corrections to promote telehealth. First, this bill would expand the number of sites that provide telehealth services under Medicare to include nursing homes, dialysis facilities, and community mental health centers. Also, it would expand the list of providers to include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and other providers determined appropriate by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Lastly, this bill would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to update the list of covered telehealth services, along with the creation of a permanent advisory committee made up of physicians and non-physicians to provide recommendations to the Secretary and continue expansions of telehealth services forward.
Michigan providers have been very innovative in using telehealth, often out of necessity because of geographic isolation. Telehealth allows providers to collaborate across great distances and share, rather than duplicate, services. This helps save money and improve patient access. One innovation is the use of tele-mental health services. Many Michigan community mental health centers have made tremendous strides in their ability to monitor patients and provide clinical consultations long distance.
I am very pleased that both the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards and the National Council on Community Behavioral Healthcare support this legislation.
I believe that the Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act will build upon already successful initiatives happening in my home State of Michigan and across the country. I urge my colleagues to join with me and Senator Conrad in expanding upon this promising technology.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a letter of support be printed in the Record.
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