The House passed the AAMC-supported Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act of 2021 (H.R. 4040) in a 416-12 vote on July 27. The bipartisan legislation extended through December of 2024 key telehealth waivers implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued a July 28 statement applauding passage of the legislation, noting that, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, patients nationwide have benefitted from increased access to telehealth services, and this bill will ensure that this crucial point of access continues.” The statement continued, “Preserving these important gains will help the 20 million Americans living in rural areas and countless more who would benefit from extended, expanded access to telehealth care.”
The legislation would extend waivers that were initially authorized at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. These provisions included the removal of geographic restrictions and the expansion of originating sites for telehealth services, as well as flexibility for providers to continue to provide audio-only telehealth services. In addition, the bill would delay the requirement that a Medicare beneficiary attend an in-person visit with their provider prior to receiving behavioral health services via telehealth.
The waivers were initially extended in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-103) for 151 days after the eventual end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) [refer to Washington Highlights, March 16].
The bill must now be considered by the Senate. Without additional congressional action, these waivers will expire 151 days after the yet-to-be-determined end of the PHE.