Today, 340 companies signed a letter sent to Congress to urge leaders to make COVID-19-related telehealth flexibilities permanent.
Representing all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, the signees are seeking to stop the potential for telehealth flexibilities to disappear, should Congress fail to act before the COVID-19 public health emergency expires, according to a news release.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress waived statutory barriers to allow for expanded access to telehealth, offering federal agencies the flexibility to allow healthcare providers to deliver care virtually. The letter says that those flexibilities will immediately go away if Congress doesn’t act.
The 340 stakeholders who signed the letter urged Congress to remove obsolete restrictions on the location of the patient so care can be accessed at home, maintain and enhance Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) authority to determine appropriate providers for telehealth, ensure federally qualified health centers and rural clinics can furnish telehealth services and make permanent the HHS temporary waiver authority for future emergencies.
Some federal agencies can address some of the policies going forward, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) does not have the authority to make changes to its reimbursement policy for telehealth, so it believes that Congress acting on the priorities listed would allow CMS to build on its experience gained during the pandemic and expand access to telehealth in a data-driven manner.
The organizations co-leading the effort include AdvaMed, the Alliance for Connected Care, the American Telemedicine Association, the eHealth Initiative, the Health Innovation Alliance and the Personal Connected Health Alliance.
“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,” AdvaMed president & CEO Scott Whitaker said in the release. “Making recently expanded telehealth access permanent will improve patients’ ability to get care outside of doctors’ offices and other traditional health care settings and save and improve countless lives.”