WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 26, 2021)—Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus, along with caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vermont), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and David Schweikert (R-Arizona) and caucus member Rep. Doris Matsui (D-California)announced the reintroduction of the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act. This bipartisan bill would ensure the expanded use of telehealth after the Coronavirus public health emergency by eliminating restrictions on the use in Medicare and requiring a study on the use of the practices during the pandemic. This would provide a bridge for patients who have come to rely on telehealth to both get important health care needs met while cutting down on the spread of the virus.
“Telehealth has been a game changer during the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that patients can continue to get care while reducing the spread of the virus during routine medical visits. However, patients could face an abrupt end to the practice once the pandemic is over, even though it’s long been a proven and cost-effective way to get care,” said Thompson in a press release.
“That’s why I am proud to join with my colleagues to reintroduce the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act. This bill ensures the expansion of telehealth can stay in place and be used for continuous care during future disasters and emergencies. I will continue working to get this bill passed and to expand the use of telehealth both during and after the pandemic.”
This bipartisan bill was first introduced in July 2020. It works to expand the use of telehealth after the end of the Coronavirus crisis by:
- Eliminating most geographic and originating site restrictions on the use of telehealth in Medicare and establishing the patient’s home as an eligible distant site so patients can receive telehealth care at home and doctors can still be reimbursed,
- Preventing a sudden loss of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries by authorizing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service to continue reimbursement for telehealth for 90 days beyond the end of the public health emergency,
- Making permanent the disaster waiver authority, enabling Health and Human Service to expand telehealth in Medicare during all future emergencies and disasters, and
- Requiring a study on the use of telehealth during COVID, including its costs, uptake rates, measurable health outcomes, and racial and geographic disparities.
In a statement, Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association said, “For decades, the Medicare statute has severely limited telehealth services while other payers increasingly relied on telehealth to provide care to patients when and where they need it. This disparity has become shockingly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person care has not been an option for most patients. While Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acted quickly to implement waivers to allow for the reimbursement of telehealth services during the COVID19 public health emergency, older adults will lose access to this important care unless Congress again takes decisive action.”
“This unprecedented pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential,” said Welch. “These practical telehealth provisions have been successfully implemented and should be continued to ensure that everyone has access to quality healthcare no matter where they live or how mobile they are. This is a commonsense step to make sure our policies keep pace with our technology.”
“Telehealth has played a major role in keeping vulnerable patients safe during this pandemic, and this bipartisan legislation keeps telehealth expansion in place. In Eastern and Southeastern Ohio and across rural America, we’ve seen that telehealth can be effectively and conveniently used in both times of crisis and in normal times,” said Johnson. “
“It is clear that telemedicine is part of the future of our health care system and should be continued as an attainable tool for all Americans.” said Schweikert “ I am hopeful we can advance this legislation in the House soon, to ensure once the pandemic is declared over, patients can continue to have access to the care they deserve wherever they are.”
“The expansion of digital services throughout the pandemic has been crucial to our most vulnerable patients, older Americans, and the traditionally underserved—and we must ensure that this level of access to care survives well beyond this crisis” said Matsui. “This legislation provides a vital bridge for patients to continue their virtual care at home and supports the further implementation of innovative solutions as we continue our mission to equalize access to care.”
Read the bill here.