For a few years, we’ve heard much about the advances in telemedicine or telehealth. In fact, there’s the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013 that was making the news a year ago, but since then, we’ve not heard much more about this revolutionary way of delivering healthcare. That’s especially true for seniors and the elderly who live in rural areas and who could certainly benefit from these technological advances. It’s true that innovations in digital technology have changed the way we live our everyday lives, and we were finally beginning to see how they changed the way that we deliver health care and manage health. And then, we heard nothing more.
No one doubts the need and countless benefits, but like many important bills making their way through Congress, this was overshadowed by the latest crisis. And in our Congress, there are always plenty of crises to divert our attention. So, how can we finally link new innovation with existing regulation? To support invention and innovation we need a flexible, risk-based oversight framework that protects patient safety and reduces regulatory duplication. This is especially true in elder care.
Fortunately, at least one group has kept this important technology in its crosshairs. The Bipartisan Policy Center has brought on board hundreds of stakeholders and experts to develop a solid set of principles and recommendations for a new oversight framework for digital technologies in health care. This framework calls for higher risk health information technology (IT) to be subject to oversight via public and private partnerships. The goal is to define a set of voluntary consensus standards and patient safety reporting. It should support rapid response, learning, and improvement. In other words, it will do the heavy lifting that Congress can’t or won’t do.
Now new technology makes it possible for us to track and improve our health and wellness with a number of tools. Whether it’s our food intake or sleep patterns, there’s a way to deliver important health information between doctors and patients. Medicaid can be improved with the technology as well. In addition, price transparency tools are emerging to help the consumer-patient make better informed decisions about the quality and costs associated with many medical choices. And if you’re still a few decades away from retirement and celebrating your senior years, imagine how advanced these technological advances will be then.
You may recall the bipartisan group of House lawmakers that came together and introduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013. Their goal was simple: to enhance Medicaid and Medicare coverage opportunities, especially in rural areas, where it’s not uncommon to feel a bit isolated or to feel vulnerable knowing a doctor is miles away. The bill was introduced by a Mississippi Representative, where much of that state is deemed rural. Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) authored the bill and while it doesn’t affect what’s already available, it does provide much better options for states to take advantage of those opportunities.
The goal now is to knock the dust off of this important bit of legislation. For now, we’re closely monitoring the bill’s progress, but if we can help secure Medicaid coverage or if you’d like to discuss your own estate planning efforts, contact our offices today. We can help guide you through the process, with or without this bill’s passage.