On May 13, 2015, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the latest draft of its 21st Century Cures Legislation. The proposed legislation includes certain telehealth-related provisions that, among other things, request cooperation between state medical boards to coordinate practitioner licensing, and requires CMS and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to conduct various studies and reports on barriers to wider telemedicine use.

Since its most recent release, the legislation has been blasted by telemedicine advocates such as the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) as doing nothing to expand Medicare payments for telemedicine technology or move the ball forward on state telemedicine licensure issues. Jonathan Linkous, the chief executive of the ATA, stated, “the staff and members of the Committee have once again been led by CMS and the Congressional Budget Office into asking for a study instead of taking real action.” Mr. Linkous further stated that these studies “allow CMS to delay any action for years.”

Despite the omission of substantive telehealth provisions in the Cures Legislation, Representative Doris Matsui, a member of an Energy and Commerce Committee telemedicine working group, clarified yesterday that the Committee’s work is not finished when it comes to telemedicine. Small telemedicine provisions are “designed to be an on-ramp to the ongoing effort of the working group,” Matsui said. Additionally, she stated that the telehealth provisions included in the Cures Legislation are “not a replacement for our larger effort that will get to ways to expand Medicare reimbursement for telehealth.”

Stay tuned for more information on the Committee’s telemedicine initiatives.