Aug 16 2022

U.S. House Passes Bill to Extend Telehealth Flexibility

The Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2022 will now be considered by the U.S. Senate.

The healthcare industry may soon be able to take a step back from the “telehealth cliff.” On July 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2022 with a nearly unanimous vote, which would enable the extension of telehealth waivers through December 31, 2024.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provided flexibility for Medicare telehealth services by broadening the waiver authority under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act. This ensured the expanded use of telehealth services amid the public health emergency, which has been extended every three months since the emergency was declared. However, the uncertainty around the continued expanded reimbursement for telehealth services has led to a telehealth cliff in healthcare, which has been a hurdle to many healthcare organizations and providers contemplating long-term strategies for their virtual care programs.

If H.R.4040 is passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, the bill would ensure the expanded use of telehealth whether or not the public health emergency continues and create more time for a permanent solution to be put in place.

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The bill clears Medicare beneficiaries to continue to receive telehealth services at any site, regardless of type or location; permits occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists to continue to furnish telehealth services; allows behavioral health services to continue to be provided via audio-only technology; and lets hospice physicians and nurse practitioners to continue to complete certain requirements relating to patient recertifications via telehealth.

“This bill would build on the experience and best practices learned during the pandemic and modernize our health care system to expand access to quality, affordable care, especially in rural and underserved communities. During the pandemic, millions of Medicare beneficiaries have relied on telehealth not only for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, but also to safely and conveniently access preventative and routine health care, monitor chronic conditions, and seek mental health care. The expansion of telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency was vital for people with Medicare to maintain access to care they might otherwise have skipped or been unable to access at all due to distance and time, lack of access to transportation, or safety considerations,” notes the Statement of Administration Policy about the bill.  

“Telehealth has long been a bipartisan healthcare issue and we now turn to the Senate to ensure this important piece of legislation makes it to President Biden’s desk so he can sign it into law,” said Kyle Zebley, executive director of ATA Action, in a press release

The U.S. Senate received the bill on July 28, and it has since been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

UP NEXT: Learn what's on the horizon for virtual care in 2022.

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