WASHINGTON, DC (November 18, 2021)—The Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC)—a coalition of the nation's leading home respiratory therapy providers and manufacturing companies—commended House lawmakers for including an important provision to permanently extend the home as a site for telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries and allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to extend other telehealth flexibilities permanently to increase access to telehealth services in the newly-unveiled 21st Century Cures 2.0 Act. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) and Fred Upton (R-Michigan), would revamp America’s health care system and enhance access to cures, treatments and approaches to health care delivery.
One crucial provision, a long-time priority of CQRC, would permanently remove Medicare's geographic and originating site restrictions that require a patient to live in a rural area and be physically in a doctor's office or clinic to use telehealth services. This provision, known as the Telehealth Modernization Act, which was originally drafted by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Georgia) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware), would also allow the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to permanently expand the types of health care providers that can offer telehealth services and the types of services—including home respiratory therapies—that can be reimbursed under Medicare. Importantly, 21st Century Cures 2.0 would measurably increase access to telehealth services for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“Given the increasingly important role of home respiratory care in the treatment of Medicare patients before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the crucial importance of telehealth as a way to increase access to care, we strongly support the efforts to permanently extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities and increase access to these services,” said Crispin Teufel, CQRC chairman. "If passed, 21st Century Cures 2.0 would go a long way to supporting a sustainable home respiratory therapy infrastructure.”
Recognizing the tremendous vulnerability of respiratory patients amid the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the CMS implemented temporary flexibilities to allow more patients to receive respiratory therapy such as supplemental oxygen or ventilation services in the home setting. Specifically, the flexibilities enabled qualified Medicare providers to offer telehealth services to beneficiaries seen by providers within the past three years for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE regardless of whether patients reside in rural areas or not. It also waived originating site requirements and restrictions on using telephones for telehealth services. If passed, 21st Century Cures 2.0 would permanently extend these important flexibilities even after the public health emergency expires.
“Extending these flexibilities and increasing access to telehealth will go a long way toward ensuring vulnerable respiratory patients can get the home respiratory care they need in the setting they overwhelmingly prefer,” continued Teufel. “We thank Representatives DeGette, Upton, Carter and Blunt Rochester for their leadership and urge Congress to quickly pass this landmark legislation.”
Visit cqrc.org for more information.