Photo credit: Katrin Morenz via Photopin (cc)

Photo credit: Katrin Morenz via Photopin (cc)

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a proposal that would help clear some of the current barriers to the telemedicine sector, by enabling doctors to treat Medicare patients over video across state lines.

The sponsors of the TELEmedicine for MEDicare Act of 2013 (H.R. 3077) said the bill would update current laws that require doctors to hold multiple state-issued medical licenses to work in other states, even if they’re doing so electronically.

Those “antiquated” laws are hindering the adoption of telemedicine, said Health IT Now Coalition Executive Director Joel White.

“Qualified and credentialed physicians must jump through hoops and hurdles before they can treat patients remotely,” White said in a statement. “Limiting the number of doctors available in any one state to treat Medicare beneficiaries—who, due to disease, transportation or mobility issues, are often not able to travel long distances to receive the care they need—not only decreases access to care, but also increases costs and harms patient outcomes.”

Telemedicine would, in theory, lower the cost of routine Medicare consultations, allowing people to talk remotely with a doctor, who might suggest a new drug prescription or further, in-person treatment.

The TELE-MED Act is co-sponsored by House Representatives Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

It is not the first time lawmakers have tried to pass legislation removing licensing restrictions to clear the way for telemedicine.

In December, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced the Telehealth Promotion Act, which called for an increase in access to telemedicine within Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, TRICARE, federal employee health plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, other efforts to expand telemedicine, which have included a summer 2012 bill that would have allowed VA providers to practice across state lines and a previous bill to expand federal reimbursement for telehealth services, failed to gain enough support to get passed into law.