On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee released the Report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations. The report includes specific instructions with respect to the appropriated amounts.
The Alliance was thrilled to see the inclusion of several telehealth provisions in this report, which ensure patients can continue to access care through this modality and data about its usage can be adequately collected to inform future policy. Below is a topline of the key telehealth provisions included in the report language.
HHS Office of the Secretary
- Telehealth Data. —The Committee recognizes that demand for telemedicine increased in 2020 in response to the COVID–19 pandemic. In addition, the Committee notes disparities in telehealth exist between and within racial and ethnic groups, rural and urban locations, and geographic regions as detailed in a December 2021 report by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The Committee urges the Secretary, working with CMS and HRSA, to categorize telehealth usage data, including for audio-only services, by Health Professional Shortage Areas. The Committee further urges the Secretary to work across agencies to ensure that improvements to broadband availability are prioritized in those areas with lowest telehealth usage, highest audio-only usage, and a known health professional shortage. The Committee requests an update within 120 days of the date of enactment of this Act on this categorization and broadband availability.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
- Telehealth and Health Care Access. —The Committee requests a report in the fiscal year 2024 Congressional Budget Justification on the impact of telehealth on health care access, utilization, cost, and outcomes, broken down by race, ethnicity, sex, age, disability status, and zip code under the Medicaid program and CHIP.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Telehealth. —The Committee includes $37,050,000 for Telehealth, an increase of $2,000,000 above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. Funds support the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, which promotes the effective use of technologies to improve access to health services for people who are isolated from health care and to provide distance education for health professionals.
- Telehealth Provider Bridge. —The Committee includes $500,000 within the total for Telehealth for the Provider Bridge program. With funds appropriated in the Coronavirus License Portability Grant Program, HRSA established the Provider Bridge Program to empower medical professionals to safely and efficiently deliver urgently needed care to communities during public health emergencies. To date, over 400 entities and 85,000 healthcare professionals have leveraged this national tool connecting health care professionals with State agencies and health care entities to quickly verify credentials and professional background information. Specifically, the platform provides a directory of State and Federal COVID–19 resources, allows health care professionals to submit professional background information, produces official and verified digital documents of licensure and credentialing information, and provides access to a database of information for volunteer clinicians willing to provide care.
- Telehealth Centers of Excellence. —The Committee supports the continued development of Telehealth Centers of Excellence to continue to validate technologies and reimbursement mechanisms, establish training protocols, and develop comprehensive templates for States to integrate telehealth into their state health provider networks.
- Rural Telehealth Initiative. —The Committee supports the Memorandum of Understanding entered into on August 31, 2020, establishing a Rural Telehealth Initiative among HHS, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Agriculture. Together, this important initiative can leverage expertise of each respective agency and improve collaboration amongst entities tasked with addressing rural telehealth access. This initiative recognizes the unique problems facing rural Americans that need access to critical care services through telehealth platforms. The Committee encourages agencies involved in this initiative to prioritize opportunities to continue the expansion of telehealth services, close the digital divide, and not leave rural communities behind.