WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 24, 2020)—On Monday, June 15th a group of 30 bipartisan senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) requesting that recent expansions and flexibilities made for telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic be made permanent.

In the early days of the pandemic, Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made numerous changes to the provision and eligibility requirements for telehealth services across multiple provider sectors. Notable was the allowance of telehealth to perform the face-to-face visit for hospice recertification. As with many of telehealth relaxations, this is currently limited to the extent of the public health emergency. This provision was originally included in the CONNECT for Health Act (S. 2741/H.R. 4932), as introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), who also led this sign-on letter to Senate leadership. Citing expanded access to care through telehealth, the signing senators are requesting that all provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act that have been included in previous COVID-19 legislation be made permanent.

The senators go on to state the importance of telehealth in ensuring access to care while reducing the risk of infection and further spread of COVID-19 as additional support for their request.

In addition to the permanency request, the senators also recommend for data collection and analysis of telehealth usage, “Specifically, the federal government should collect and analyze data on the impact of telehealth on utilization, quality, health outcomes, and spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is currently a scarcity of data available regarding the impact of telehealth on the Medicare program. This data would assist Congress in crafting additional policies to improve health outcomes and use resources more effectively.”

Leading to the CONNECT for Health Act’s introduction last October, the National Association for Home Health & Hospice (NAHC) advised on provisions impacting hospice and home health, and offered full support of the legislative measure.