Bill boosts rural telemedicine

Medicare Telehealth Validation Act of 2003

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Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill that could provide states with up to $40 million in grants for developing and expanding rural telehealth networks, as well improve other telemedicine services that are provided under Medicare.

The Medicare Telehealth Validation Act of 2003 (H.R. 1940) will help reduce the disparity in health care between rural and urban areas, Ose said in introducing his bill this month.

"The techniques and consultative efficiency provided by telehealth services reduce costs by diagnosing diseases and disorders before they progress," he said. "By expanding Medicare reimbursement for telehealth technology, we will be cutting illnesses off at the pass, and reducing overall costs."

As well as funding grants, the bill seeks to extend telehealth services to inpatient services, increase the Medicare categories of people who can receive telehealth services and reduce the barriers for access to telehealth technologies by increasing multistate licensing.

The legislation also would expand store-and-forward technology and "revolutionize" radiology, Ose said, because X-rays and slides could be shared quickly and confidentially with specialists far from rural clinics and hospitals, leading to better, faster and less expensive diagnoses and treatments.

Ose introduced the same bill in 2001, but suffered by appearing around the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when Congress put all domestic agenda items, according to Yier Shi, Ose's press aide.

The bill currently has two other co-sponsors, and has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee. A hearing date has not yet been set.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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