December 09, 2016

Onerous Telemedicine Provisions Stripped From NDAA

Lobbying efforts by the American College of Radiology (ACR) in collaboration with other health care organizations have helped convince a Congressional conference committee to remove a controversial telemedicine licensure provision from a national defense funding bill before its Congressional approval.

The House-Senate conference report accompanying S. 2934, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2017, passed the House on Dec. 2 and passed the Senate on Dec. 8. President Obama is expected to sign the conference committee’s version of the NDAA into law. The NDAA is annual legislation primarily dedicated to authorizing the federal government to spend money for war and military base operations.

Conferees from the House and Senate Armed Services committees worked diligently for the past six months to rectify differences in House and Senate versions of the proposed FY 2017 NDAA. For example, a version passed by the Senate June 14 permitted physicians who practice within the military’s TRICARE health system to hold a medical license only in the state where they’re located when they practice interstate telemedicine. The House’s version of the NDAA passed May 14 and did not include this dramatic change to existing medical licensure regulations governing telemedicine services.

Under current law, physicians engaging in telemedicine must be licensed in the state where they reside, and where the patient is located. TRICARE provides health coverage for U.S. Armed Forces personnel, military retirees and their dependents.

As previously reported in Advocacy in Action eNews, the ACR, along with the American Medical Association, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), and other health care organizations, argued the Senate bill would unnecessarily preempt state laws governing medical licensure, medical practice, professional liability and reimbursement. Requiring TRICARE physicians engaged in telemedicine to obtain a license only in the state where they’re located would also make it very difficult for patients to identify the appropriate state to file legal action in the event of medical error.

The ACR cosigned a coalition letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2016 to reiterate its opposition to redefining the practice of medicine — for the purposes of telemedicine — as occurring at the location of the provider, rather than the patient.

Radiologists interested in staying abreast of the latest Capitol Hill developments pertaining to telemedicine licensure issues should continue to monitor Advocacy in Action eNews.