H.R. 2068: Medicare Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2009

The debate over health care reform in Washington has been one of the most highly debated acts of legislation our country has seen in recent memory. Many members of congress believe that the expansion and increased Medicare reimbursement of Telemedicine programs throughout the country are key parts of this reform. Only about 20% of the country’s Medicare beneficiaries have access to telemedicine because of restrictions limiting funding to rural areas, according to legislators. The Medicare Telehealth Enhancement Act originally introduced in May would expand Medicare reimbursement to the other 80% of the country and encourage in other ways the remote monitoring of patients using telecommunications technology.

The bipartisan bill co-authored by two Democratic representatives (Mike Thompson of California and Bart Supak of Michigan) and two Republican representatives (Sam Johnson of Texas and Lee Terry of Nebraska), H.R. 2068, could usher in a new era of telemedicine in the U.S. According to the four lawmakers, the bill would:

  • Eliminate geographic restrictions on reimbursement for telemedicine;
  • Authorize $30 million in telehealth grant and resource funding by creating a new grant program worth $10 million, and reauthorizing two existing programs — the Telehealth Network Program and the Telehealth Resource Centers Program — each with $10 million in funding;
  • Expand coverage of telehealth services to home health services and remote patient monitoring; and
  • Expand eligible health care providers to include all Medicare providers.

Several provisions of HR 2068 have been included in Congress‘s health reform bill and after conferencing with the Senate, these members of congress are hoping to introduce an updated version of stand-alone telehealth legislation. To view HR 3962, Congress’s health care reform legislation, click here. Section 1191 is currently being reviewed.

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