Thompson Servicemember Telemedicine Expansion Gains New Support with Passage of Defense Bill

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4870, the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015, by a vote of 340 to 73.  The measure includes Thompson provisions that will prioritize investments for the expansion of telemedicine across the military and provide full funding for recovering and identifying U.S. Prisoners of War (POW) and servicemembers Missing in Action (MIA).

“Today the House took an important step toward further expanding servicemembers’ access to cost effective health care services with the passage of H.R. 4870,” stated Rep. Thompson. “Telemedicine serves two distinct benefits, it lowers the overall cost of care while efficiently expanding access to health services, especially in the realm of behavior health. This bill prioritizes funding for the expansion of telemedicine practices across our military and builds upon existing efforts at the Department of Defense.”

Thompson is the author of the Servicemembers Telemedicine and E-Health Portability Act, or STEP Act (now Public Law 112-81, Section 713), which passed into law in 2011 and enabled the Department of Defense (DoD) to expand the use of telemedicine by allowing credentialed DoD health professionals to offer tele-health consultations across state lines, regardless of where the servicemember is physically located.

Since passage of the STEP Act, DoD has authorized thousands of teleconsultations for clinical health services across the military’s service branches.  H.R. 4870 prioritizes funding to continue this expansion within the Defense Health Agency.

H.R. 4870 also fully funds the POW/MIA Personnel Office account and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), which Thompson has advocated for the past two years.         

“While we face enormous budget constraints during this time, today the House reaffirmed its commitment to the brave men and women who served in uniform but never returned home,” stated Rep. Thompson. “This funding reinforces the important work of JPAC and our nation’s efforts to bring closure for families of our POWs and those missing in action.”