Thompson, Welch, Johnson, Schweikert, Matsui Introduce the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act
Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus, along with caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Peter Welch (VT-AL), Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06), and Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-06), and caucus member Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06), announced the introduction of the Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act. This bipartisan bill will continue the expanded use of telehealth beyond the Coronavirus pandemic by eliminating restrictions on the use in Medicare, providing a bridge for patients currently using the practices because of the crisis, and requiring a study on the use of telehealth during COVID-19.
"Telehealth is a proven and cost-effective way to get care out to patients, particularly during a crisis. Since the Spring, many patients who need routine care have been using telehealth to see their doctors without increasing the risk of spreading Coronavirus and many face an abrupt end to this practice after the crisis is over," said Thompson. "That's why today I joined my colleagues to introduce the Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act. My bill will expand the use of this proven practice for seniors and those on Medicare and ensure that telehealth care be used during future disasters and emergencies. We know telehealth can be an essential bridge in delivering care, particularly during a crisis and today we are working to ensure telehealth continues in a post-Coronavirus world."
"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."
"Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there was still some question as to whether telehealth could be an effective alternative to going to the doctor's office. The answer is now clear: unequivocally, YES," said Johnson. "This bipartisan legislation will enable Medicare beneficiaries to continue using telehealth services when the current emergency declaration ends, and ensures that the enormous resources invested in making this technology work are not wasted. It's time to expand high-quality telehealth services to all Americans, not roll back the progress we've made."
"I am pleased to introduce this legislation with my colleagues on the Telehealth Caucus, continuing our work to advance solutions for how we can provide efficient and accessible care," said Schweikert. "It is clear that telemedicine is part of the future of our healthcare system, and should be continued as an attainable tool post-pandemic. Telehealth services are allowing society to become safer, healthier, and more effective at delivering the care patients deserve. This legislation will ensure individuals have a choice in how they receive their care, and I am proud to give patients the care and control they deserve through this affordable innovation."
"Rising to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, providers nationwide are leaning in to telehealth to ensure patients have access to the care they need while safely social distancing. Especially in our medically underserved communities and for individuals highly vulnerable to the virus' spread, leveraging telehealth is helping to advance our broader mission to equalize access to care," said Matsui. "Waivers during the emergency have been critical to supporting digital care, but we must act to make these pro-telehealth policies permanent. This important legislation would permanently expand Medicare telehealth services to patients in all geographic areas and allow patients to receive virtual care at home. It also supports our FQHC's ability to continue to provide vital services via telehealth. Recognizing our changing world, we must continue to explore and support innovative solutions to enhance access to health care, improve connectivity, and meet patients where they are at."
You can click here to read the full text of the Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act. This bipartisan bill 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.
"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," said Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of AdvaMed. "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."
"Giving all seniors access to telehealth -- regardless of geographic location -- is the right policy, and one that's been proven necessary by both patients and providers," said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care. "The Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act takes a critical step toward this goal."
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has allowed our nation's healthcare system to continue to effectively deliver needed care virtually, ensuring patients can safely access care when and where they need it. As the only organization exclusively dedicated to advancing telehealth, the ATA commends the House Telehealth Caucus for introducing this essential but commonsense legislation to ensure Medicare patients continue to have the choice to access telehealth after the current public health emergency," said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO, the ATA (American Telemedicine Association).
"The California Medical Association (CMA) supports the introduction of the Protecting Access to Post COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020 by California Representatives Mike Thompson and Doris Matsui. As long-time champions of telehealth, the CMA applauds Representatives Thompson and Matsui for their continued efforts to ensure that Medicare telehealth services are available to seniors beyond the COVID-19 pandemic," said CMA President, Peter N. Bretan, M.D. "Telehealth has been vital during the pandemic in protecting vulnerable seniors from the risks associated with leaving home to get care. It has allowed seniors to obtain safe and timely health care evaluations and preventive care. This is not just good policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is good policy, period. CMA strongly supports the provisions in this bill that permanently make it easier for seniors to receive telehealth care from their home regardless of where they live. Many seniors suffer from multiple chronic conditions that make travel to a physician's office difficult. As we move toward value-based care models where physicians are managing chronic conditions, telehealth is an important tool in improving health, controlling costs and ensuring that seniors get timely access to care."
"Many healthcare organizations and their patients have welcomed the benefits that telehealth provided during the pandemic and they want them to continue. Extending telehealth flexibilities beyond the public health emergency will allow clinicians to continue to safely treats patients while battling this highly contagious disease," said John Kravitz, Chair of CHIME Board of Trustees and CIO of Geisinger.
"The eHealth Initiative (eHI) is proud to support the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020," said eHI CEO Jennifer Covich Bordenick. "The legislation would once and for all remove arbitrary geographic restrictions on all Medicare telehealth services and ensure access for patients for whom traditional office visits don't always work. We applaud Congressman Thompson and the House Telehealth Caucus for their continued leadership on telehealth and look forward to working with them to advance this critical legislation."
"HIMSS and PCHAlliance applaud the introduction of the telehealth bill sponsored by Representative Thompson and members of the House Telehealth Caucus, and call upon Congress to take swift action and make permanent the flexibilities that have supported the use of evidence-based connected care technologies to improve healthcare quality, access, and value for all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Hal Wolf, President and CEO of HIMSS.