The VA Mission Act: Expanding Access to the VA Telemedicine System
On June 6, 2018, President Trump signed the “John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Networks Act” a.k.a. the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (“VAMA”) into law, a $52 billion reform bill aimed at improving access to, and the quality of, medical services provided to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”). We explored the pros and cons associated with VAMA in a June 12, 2019 blog article that we have linked here.
Contrary to VAMA’s primary goal of increasing access, and the quality of, medical services provided to veterans by the VA, as currently drafted, VAMA only allows VA covered practitioners (which only includes physicians) to provide telehealth services via the VA’s telemedicine system. It does not allow trainees, including interns, residents, fellows and graduate students from providing care via the VA’s the telemedicine system. This seems contrary to one of the main goals of VAMA, which is to increase access to telemedicine services by veterans.
On June 12, 2019, Congressman Early L. Carter introduced legislation to increase veterans’ access to telemedicine by expanding the types of health care providers that would be eligible to provide telemedicine services under VAMA. The proposed bill would allow trainees who participate in professional training programs (i.e., residents, interns and fellows) to use the telemedicine system available under VAMA so long as they are supervised by a credentialed VA staff member. Congressman Carter has indicated that his goal is to improve telehealth training at VA health centers and to increase access to care by increasing the eligible providers.
While there is general bi-partisan support for this new legislation, there are still concerns relating to the costs associated with VAMA. It is, therefore, likely that the approval process of this new legislation will be slow as any additions to VAMA undergoes a high level of scrutiny.