July 17, 2015

Hirono & Ernst Fight To Help Improve Seniors’ Access To Care With New Bipartisan Legislation

Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Joni Ernst (R-IA) are fighting to increase access to telemedicine for Medicare patients in new legislation introduced this week. The bipartisan Telemedicine for Medicare (TELE-MED) Act, is a bill that would allow Medicare patients to seek care from Medicare doctors across state lines through telemedicine services.

"As our country confronts a looming physician shortage, those of us in Hawaii are already feeling the pain of a lack of access to medical care in rural and underserved communities,” said Senator Hirono. “Hawaii residents often are forced to drive for hours to see their physician or spend thousands of dollars to fly to Oahu and the mainland to seek care from a specialist. For seniors, these long travel times are difficult and even impossible. The TELE-MED Act will help to eliminate the financial and physical stress of seeking quality medical care by allowing seniors access to Medicare-participating physicians from the convenience of their home or local doctor’s office."

“Iowans sent me to Congress to focus on patient-centered health care, and this bipartisan legislation works to address Iowa’s rural health care challenges,” said Senator Ernst. “The TELEmedicine for MEDicare Act utilizes advancements within medical technology to make doctors readily available by expanding where they can provide telemedicine services to Medicare recipients. This legislation is a step in the right direction to provide the kind of health care alternatives Iowans deserve.”

The TELE-MED Act is supported by the Health IT Now Coalition, the Healthcare Leadership Council, the U.S. Chamber, Verizon, and the Parkinson’s Action Network.

“The success of our healthcare system relies on how well we adapt to the modern era, which allows us to utilize new and innovative technology to patients’ unique needs,” said Joel White, Executive Director of the Health IT Now Coalition. “The TELE-MED Act is a crucial step forward toward achieving this goal by removing state barriers to providing telehealth services to patients.”

Representatives Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. In addition to expanding where Medicare providers could provide telemedicine services, The TELE-MED Act would require the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to issue guidance to States to define the term “telemedicine services” to solicit stakeholder input, require the HHS Secretary to submit a report to Congress on plans to develop and expand the use of technology to expand patient access to Medicare health programs, and protect State laws and jurisdiction related to negligence and medical malpractice.