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US Reps Introduce Bill to Ensure Permanent Access to Telehealth

By December 13, 2021No Comments

Source:  mHealth Intelligence

By Victoria Bailey

The Telehealth Extension Act aims to solidify policies that will preserve permanent access to telehealth after the public health emergency ends.

– Members of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee have introduced a bipartisan bill that seeks to ensure permanent access to telehealth services.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), who is the chair of the subcommittee, and subcommittee members Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and David Schweikert (R-AZ) are sponsoring the Telehealth Extension Act.

The bill has been endorsed by several notable telehealth advocates including the National Rural Health Association, the eHealth Initiative, the American Nurses Association, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The legislation aims to lift geographic and site restrictions to allow Medicare beneficiaries to access telehealth no matter where they live. Certain policies limit telehealth access to patients living in rural areas and providers practicing in specific clinics. Waivers helped lift these restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are set to expire when the public health emergency ends.

Permanently eliminating these restrictions would make it easier for all Americans to access telehealth services regardless of their location, according to a press release issued by Doggett’s office.

The bill also incorporates recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and would extend select COVID-19 emergency telehealth waivers for two years.

The waivers permit Medicare coverage for telehealth services provided by specialty providers including speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

Further, the temporary extension would allow critical access hospitals to keep providing outpatient behavioral therapy via telehealth and would ensure proper reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services.

“Expanded access to telehealth, permitted by emergency waivers, has transformed healthcare delivery—helping patients connect easily and safely with their physicians in a timely manner. As the pandemic enters an unpredictable new stage and emergency waives may expire, patients and providers should not face a cliff of uncertainty,” Doggett said in the press release.

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