ALLIANCE FOR CONNECTED CARE STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
“The Future of Telehealth: How COVID-19 is Changing the Delivery of Virtual Care”
The Alliance submitted a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health on the ““The Future of Telehealth: How COVID-19 is Changing the Delivery of Virtual Care.”
The Alliance provided 1) overarching comments about telehealth research and evidence, 2) recommendations for telehealth expansions that Congress should consider and 3) recommendations for telehealth “guardrail” provisions that Congress could consider.
Top Telehealth Priorities
These priorities were also outlined in the July 2020 group letter to Congress with 340 endorsing organizations. The following four items should be the core of any serious telehealth expansion.
- Removal all geographic and originating site restrictions on telehealth in Medicare. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the need for telehealth in rural areas, in urban areas, at work, at school, at home and many other locations. These provisions are obsolete and outdated and should be removed from statute entirely. The location of the patient should not matter for telehealth.
- Remove distant site provider list restrictions to allow all Medicare providers who deliver telehealth-appropriate services to provide those services to beneficiaries through telehealth when clinically appropriate and covered by Medicare – including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, and others.
- Ensure Federally Qualified Health Centers, Critical Access Hospitals, and Rural Health Clinics can furnish telehealth in Medicare and be reimbursed fairly for those services, despite unique payment characteristics and challenges for each. Please note that critical access hospitals are sometimes omitted from this list, but are a crucial component of a healthcare system able to reach all Medicare beneficiaries and must be able to directly bill for telehealth services.
- Make permanent the Health and Human Services (HHS) emergency waiver authority for virtual care so that it can be quickly leveraged during future emergencies. Telehealth has maintained critical connections between patients and healthcare practitioners during the pandemic, and should be enabled for a future wildfire, flood, hurricane, or other emergency.