A bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate seeks to increase veterans’ healthcare access by expanding telehealth services across state lines for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to current law, the VA may waive the state licensure requirement only if the patient and doctor are both at a federally owned facility; additionally, at-home VA telehealth services are permitted only if the patient and doctor are in the same state. These mandates make it difficult for rural and disabled veterans to obtain appropriate care due to onerous travel requirements and state restrictions.
If passed, the bill would allow qualified VA healthcare providers to treat patients in other states and offer telemedicine solutions, such as mental health services, to veterans in their homes. The bill, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and eight other co-sponsors, is called the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015 (VETS Act). A companion bill, written by Congressmen Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Glen Thompson (R-PA), is under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to the VA, over 12 percent of veterans received care through telemedicine in 2014—an 18 percent increase over the previous year. Of these individuals, 44 percent resided in rural areas. The VA says that using telemedicine saves veterans $2,000 each year, and 88 percent are happy with the care they receive through telemedicine.
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