If the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gets its way, VA telemedicine providers will soon be exempt from state restrictions that prohibit physicians from seeing patients in another state without being licensed to practice there. The goal of the proposed rule, the Veterans E-health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017, is to increase veterans’ access to care and timeliness of treatment, especially in rural and underserved areas.
The state restrictions have made it difficult for the VA to recruit a sufficient number of physicians to furnish telemedicine services, resulting in a shortage of providers. The new rule would allow the VA to hire providers in urban areas, where physicians are more plentiful, and have them treat patients in rural areas via telemedicine. Although the proposed rule only applies to VA providers and patients, the hope is that other states and federal agencies will follow suit.
Proponents anticipate the new rule would make mental health, specialty care, and general care more available for all beneficiaries. However, critics, including the American Medical Association, worry that the rule would undermine the states’ ability to oversee the practice of medicine within their borders.