Congressional Bills Aim to Make Telehealth Flexibilities Permanent

Two Congressional bills introduced in late May are aiming to make telehealth flexibilities initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent for Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) eased regulations on telehealth use at the start of the pandemic, allowing providers to offer audio-only services over the phone and removing originating site requirements. The changes were intended to last until the public health emergency was under control, but the legislation would extend the use of telehealth for the foreseeable future.

“The pandemic has created challenges for everyone, but it’s also shown us that technology can provide safe and dependable communication between patients and their doctors,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), a co-sponsor of the House bill with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). “Innovations including telehealth and audio-only capabilities will improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase access to healthcare providers.”

Telehealth use among seniors in Maine increased dramatically during the pandemic, according to Senator Susan Collins, who said that making the changes permanent would allow Medicare beneficiaries to “continue to take advantage of remote home health care amid the COVID-19 public health emergency and beyond.”

Sources: AP News, May 19, 2021; Fierce Healthcare, May 25, 2021.