On June 30, 340 organizations signed a letter urging Congressional leaders to make telehealth flexibilities created during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent. Those signing this multi-stakeholder letter include national and regional organizations representing a full range of healthcare stakeholders and all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Congress quickly waived statutory barriers to allow for expanded access to telehealth at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing federal agencies with the flexibility to allow healthcare providers to deliver care virtually. If Congress does not act before the COVID-19 public health emergency expires, current flexibilities will immediately disappear, according to the stakeholders.
To that end, 340 stakeholders have sent a message to Congress outlining the immediate actions necessary to ensure CMS has the authority to continue to make telehealth services available once the national health emergency is rescinded:
- Remove obsolete restrictions on the location of the patient to ensure that all patients can access care at home, and other appropriate locations
- Maintain and enhance Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to determine appropriate providers and services for telehealth
- Ensure Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics can furnish telehealth services after the public health emergency
- Make permanent HHS temporary waiver authority for future emergencies
While federal agencies can address some of these policies going forward, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) does not have the authority to make changes to Medicare reimbursement policy for telehealth under the outdated Section 1834(m) of the Social Security Act. Following these priorities will allow CMS to build on the experience gained during the pandemic and expand access to telehealth in a thoughtful, data-driven way.
“Too many patients are still going without care that is absolutely vital to their health and putting essential medical procedures on hold due to the pandemic or lack of access to care,” says AdvaMed President and CEO Scott Whitaker. “Making recently expanded telehealth access permanent will improve patients’ ability to get care outside of doctors’ offices and other traditional healthcare settings and save and improve countless lives.”
Read the letter to Congress, including the list of 340 stakeholders, here.