Ways & Means Health Leaders Author New Bipartisan Bill to Break Down Barriers to Telehealth

Statement

Today, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chair of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, joined by Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Health Subcommittee members Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and David Schweikert (R-AZ), introduced the Telehealth Extension Act.

This bipartisan bill ensures permanent access to telehealth for patients across the country by ending outdated geographic and site restrictions on where patients can receive approved telehealth services. Following recommendations from the nonpartisan, independent advisory group Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), the bill also temporarily extends emergency authorities established during the COVID-19 pandemic that authorize a wide range of providers and services via telehealth. The temporary extension of these authorities will prevent an abrupt cliff in services at the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) period and allow for further study of the utilization and impact of telehealth in different medical settings.

Finally, to ensure Medicare program integrity, the Telehealth Extension Act implements MedPAC recommendations to prevent unnecessary spending and telehealth-related fraud. In 2019, the Department of Justice brought charges against telehealth executives and physicians for $1.2 billion in taxpayer losses after ordering unnecessary back, shoulder, and knee braces. In a separate scheme, Medicare was fraudulently billed $2.1 billion for cancer genetic tests. The Telehealth Extension Act's anti-fraud provisions will complement the Department of Justice's investigative and enforcement actions to prevent future scams and billions of dollars of losses to Medicare.

"As Americans overcome Zoom fatigue and vaccinations enable many to return to the office and classroom, one aspect of virtual life is here to stay. Expanded access to telehealth, permitted by emergency waivers, has transformed health care delivery--helping patients connect easily and safely with their physicians in a timely manner. As the pandemic enters an unpredictable new stage and emergency waivers may expire, patients and providers should not face a cliff of uncertainty," said Congressman Doggett. "This forward-looking bill, based on expert, independent recommendations, provides clarity, certainty, and a foundation for building a telemedicine system that expands access, preserves patient choice, and includes basic safeguards against fraud and exploitation."

"As America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress continues to make great strides in providing Americans--especially rural Americans--with access to quality healthcare by expanding telehealth," said Congressman Nunes. "In particular, this legislation will extend key COVID-19 emergency telehealth waivers for another two years so that healthcare providers and Critical Access Hospitals can continue delivering telehealth services to the Americans who most need them."

"Expanding telehealth has been a policy focus throughout my time in public service, since my days in the California State Senate. Telehealth is a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver health care, particularly for rural and underserved areas. Today as Co-Chair of the Telehealth Caucus, I am proud to join Chairman Doggett in introducing the Telehealth Extension Act, important bipartisan legislation to make telehealth available for more patients no matter where they receive care. I look forward to advancing this and other important bills to increase the use of telehealth beyond the COVID-19 pandemic," said Congressman Thompson.

"I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will protect patient access to a vital healthcare tool. Throughout the pandemic, telehealth has proven time and again to deliver high-quality care to individuals regardless of where they live," said Congressman Schweikert. "This legislation is a critical step to increase accessibility, improve outcomes, and equip our nation with the tools it needs to respond to future emergencies. I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect access to telehealth for each and every American."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how rural Americans receive health care in fundamental ways. Seniors can now see their doctor from the comfort of their own home, and families can visit the doctor on hours that work for their schedule. Unfortunately, many of the telehealth flexibilities families have come to rely on are going to expire," said Congressman Kelly. "This bill extends those, then goes further to lower barriers to health care for rural and underserved areas. I'm proud to be co-leading this bipartisan effort and am grateful to all of my colleagues for their tireless efforts on behalf of all Americans."


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