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House and Senate Proposals Seek to Expand Access to Telehealth

July 24, 2020

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CONTACTS
Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations

House Ways and Means Committee Republicans and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) each introduced proposals on July 20 to permanently extend some of the temporary waivers to increase access to telehealth services that were included in the first two COVID-19 supplemental funding packages [see Washington Highlights, March 6 and March 20].

The discussion draft released by Ways and Means Republicans would permanently extend several of the temporary waivers that:

  • Remove geographic and originating site restrictions to allow Medicare beneficiaries to utilize telehealth services from home.
  • Allow certain practitioners, including physical therapists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists, to provide telehealth care.
  • Allow telehealth services through audio-only telephone when the patient and provider have an established relationship.
  • Allow Health Savings Account-eligible plans to cover telehealth services before meeting the plan’s deductible.
  • Allow the remote authorization of dialysis care through telehealth technologies instead of requiring an in-person visit.

Additionally, the discussion draft includes several program integrity measures. It would:

  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General to conduct a survey of telehealth claims to study potential improper payments one year after the end of the public health emergency.
  • Increase funding to HHS to ensure oversight of the increase in telehealth claims since the start of the pandemic.
  • Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to offer education and training sessions to practitioners on Medicare telehealth requirements and related resources.

Sen. Wyden’s legislation (S. 4230) would also remove the geographic restrictions and expand the available originating sites for telehealth services. In addition, the legislation would make mental health services and evaluation and management services available through telehealth to all Medicare beneficiaries.

The AAMC had previously sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma urging the administration and Congress to make permanent some of the telehealth waivers and flexibilities that have been put in place during the public health emergency, including for telehealth services to be covered for patients in any geographic location and at any site, including the patient’s home [see Washington Highlights, May 15].

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