A bill before Congress calls on the Health and Human Services Department and the Government Accountability Office to produce separate studies on how telehealth has been used to address the coronavirus pandemic.
– While Congress is under mounting pressure to extend telehealth coverage past the coronavirus pandemic, some lawmakers want to make sure the evidence is there to support those moves.
A bill introduced in the House last week calls on both the Health and Human Services Department and the Government Accountability Office to conduct separate studies of telehealth use and outcomes during the ongoing emergency. Known as the KEEP Telehealth Options Act, the bill aims to give lawmakers a detailed accounting of the connected health landscape.
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“COVID-19 has unexpectedly pulled us into a demonstration of how effective and important telehealth options are for older Iowans or those who live farther from a health center,” Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH), said in a press release. “What we have now is a golden opportunity to document how telehealth services were implemented and where improvements can be made so we can chart a path to keeping these options available for patients who won’t stop needing them when this pandemic is over.”
This isn’t the only bill to call for a telehealth study. Earlier this month, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) unveiled the Evaluating Disparities and Outcomes of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Emergency Act of 2020 (HR 7078), which would reportedly call on HHS to study telehealth use during the emergency and report back to Congress one year after the emergency has ended.
This latest bill gives HHS six months to finish its study and report back to Congress. It calls on the agency to analyze actions taken during the COVID-19 emergency to enhance telehealth coverage for Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), including new services and providers who qualify for reimbursement and analyses of telehealth use by rural, minority, low-income and elderly populations, telemental health services and the impact on public health.
The bill gives the GAO seven months to complete its study and report back to Congress, and calls on the agency to focus on the efficiency, management and successes and failures of expanded telehealth access, as well as any increase in fraudulent activities.
While telehealth has generally been cast in a positive light in how it’s been used to help the healthcare industry address care during the pandemic, critics have maintained that there haven’t been enough studies to prove its value. Prior to the pandemic, many telehealth bills in Congress