Reps. Thompson and Hulshof Introduce Bill to Expand Use of Telehealth Technology

Press Release

By:  Mike Thompson Kenny Hulshof
Date: June 4, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

Reps. Thompson and Hulshof Introduce Bill to Expand Use of Telehealth Technology

Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) introduced legislation that would increase the number of health facilities that offer telehealth services to Medicare recipients.

Telehealth, the delivery of health services via telecommunications, is a proven method for doctors and patients to effectively communicate from separate locations. This technology is an important resource for transmitting medical advice, information and imaging, but Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services is currently limited to rural areas and specific types of health facilities.

The Thompson-Hulshof legislation would expand Medicare reimbursement to urban and suburban areas and include more facilities, like skilled nursing facilities and home health services. It will also allow doctors to monitor patients remotely.

"People in rural Congressional Districts like ours often have to travel long distances to see a specialty physician," said Thompson. "We know that telehealth technologies are an effective way to bring high-quality, affordable healthcare to Americans, no matter where they live. This legislation will make sure Medicare recipients can access telemedicine technology in more cities and towns and in more health facilities. As healthcare becomes more expensive, telehealth technology is a great way to help people get the care they need."

"Telehealth has the potential to make the best treatments and medical professionals available to any American," said Hulshof. "This legislation has broad support from the medical community, as we all share the same goal: to take full advantage of medical and technological advances to save lives and keep people healthy. Telehealth also has great potential to save billions of taxpayer dollars, so this bill is truly a win-win."

The legislation also provides $30 million in grant funding to help health facilities pay for the telehealth equipment and to expand telehealth support services.

Telehealth has shown it provides better management of chronic diseases, reduces emergency room admissions and lowers healthcare costs. Telehealth services can also play an important role in addressing the epidemic of physician shortages in rural America by bringing physician specialty services to remote communities. In addition, faster diagnoses enabled by telehealth allow patients to get care more quickly.

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