A bipartisan Congressional bill has been introduced to ensure access to telehealth after the COVID-19 public health emergency by eliminating restrictions on the use in Medicare and requiring a study on the use of the practices during the pandemic. The “Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act” is sponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05) along with Rep Peter Welch (VT-AL), Rep Bill Johnson (OH-06), and Rep David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Rep Doris Matsui (CA-06)
The bill 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, according to Thompson.
“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. “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.”
The full text of the Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act is available here. 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.
“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.”