Saturday, May 06, 2017
Billy Long: Telehealth services provide more effective health care for rural America
Recently, the Monett School District launched a pilot program that would allow students in the fifth through eighth grades to have access to high quality medical care without even leaving school. This program was made possible by a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. This pilot program provides a direct video link to a nurse practitioner in Springfield, advanced medical equipment and the chance for children without health insurance to be provided care they otherwise could not get.
The grant that the Monett School District received will provide funding for three years at no cost to the students. Not only will this program decrease chronic absenteeism, it will also give parents the comfort of knowing that if they need to run their child to the doctor, they don’t have to take off a full day of work. With the advanced medical equipment and access to a nurse practitioner, students who don’t feel well can be diagnosed earlier and prevent the sickness from spreading to their peers.
This type of program is why telehealth is becoming a priority issue for many in Congress. Last year, we passed a bipartisan bill known as the 21st Century Cures Act that included language that would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to inform Congress of ways to increase the use of telehealth services for the Medicare program.
In 2015 $17.6 million was spent on Medicare (Part B) payments for a total of 192,692 telehealth visits. Individuals on Medicare aren’t the only ones that find telehealth services useful. In the same year, the Department of Veterans Affairs spent $2.1 million on telehealth visits for veterans.
Using telehealth services allows for medical professionals to access rural and underserved areas that otherwise would not have access to quality care. In areas like those in Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, telehealth services are vital to making sure individuals receive the care they deserve and need.
It’s programs like this that help pave the way for a more efficient and effective health-care system of the 21st century. With southwest Missouri being predominantly rural, telehealth applications provide improved health care services that don’t leave rural America behind. As this 115th Congress goes on, I will continue to support legislation that increases access to these services.