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Heffley bill allows Telehealth providers to be reimbursed

Published October 29. 2011 09:01AM

In an effort to modernize outdated health care practices that some Pennsylvanians have to endure, Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) has introduced legislation to allow the Commonwealth's Medical Assistance program to provide reimbursement for telehealth services.

Telehealth services is the use of telecommunications technologies and electronic information to support long-distance clinical health care, professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.

"Due to technological improvements, urban centers are no longer the only geography that benefit from health care advances," Heffley said. "I've introduced this legislation, House Bill 1939, to allow a larger percentage of the underserved - in every community in Pennsylvania - to enjoy access to technological advances that promise better and more comprehensive delivery of health care. If passed, Pennsylvanians in rural areas will be able to receive better treatment at their hospital and not be forced to travel for many aspects of specialized care."

Pennsylvania's Medical Assistance program, as administered by the Commonwealth's Department of Welfare, currently limits reimbursement for telehealth services for consultations performed by maternal fetal medicine specialists relating to high risk obstetrical care and consultations performed by psychiatrists related to psychopharmacology.

Heffley's legislation, if passed, will allow all Medical Assistance providers who use telehealth to be reimbursed for their services.

"The technology is there and is ready to be used," the lawmaker noted. "The legislation just needs to be brought up-to-date to allow underserved Pennsylvanians to gain access to what could, potentially, be life-saving measures."

Heffley noted that updating access through this legislation is just part of an overall effort by many legislators to make services availed through the Department of Welfare more cost-efficient and effective.

"Telehealth services are effective tools in increasing patient access to providers, improving quality of care, and promoting better communication and coordination among patients and providers," Heffley said. "Efficiency in patient access not only helps promote wellness, it can also assist in making the whole system work in a more cost-effective, proficient manner.

"The technological world changes quickly. We must be on top of making sure that outdated legislation doesn't hinder benefits that technology can provide for those who need this type of help through the Medical Assistance program. Plus the cost savings for Medical Assistance and Medicaid make this a win for the taxpayer as well," concluded Heffley. Discussion of Heffley's legislation was part of an informational meeting on telemedicine held by the House Health Committee this morning. State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh/Monroe/Northampton) is expected to introduce similar legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate.

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