Stabenow Introduces Bill Using Telecommunications to Connect Doctors and Patients
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today introduced the Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act, which will improve access for many Medicare beneficiaries. Telehealth telecommunications utilize the latest technology to connect patients and physicians over long distances. Telehealth communications also allow doctors to share patient information, improving access and saving money. The Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act also calls for the expansion of telemental health services, for the first time, to many community mental health centers nationwide.
"Every American should have access to quality, affordable health care," said Stabenow. "This legislation will allow more Medicare patients, including those with mental health illness, to take advantage of the quality care which they otherwise would not have."
Telehealth technologies include videoconferencing, streaming media, wireless communications, and utilization of the Internet. Medical images are often transmitted from doctor to doctor to help with the diagnosis of a patient. Telehealth can also be as simple as a doctor offering health advice to another health care provider.
The Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act would expand the number of sites that provide telehealth services under Medicare to include nursing homes, dialysis facilities, and community mental health centers. It would also 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.
The legislation would also 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 other health professionals to recommend future expansions of telehealth services. The Medicare Telehealth Improvement Act is sponsored by U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND).
Senator Stabenow has been recognized for her leadership in bringing innovative technology to the health care sector. She is the co-chair of the Senate Health Care Quality and Information Technology Caucus and a member of the Senate Rural Health Caucus.