US lawmakers want to ensure pandemic telemedicine coverage doesn’t lapse

The pandemic has prompted US lawmakers to provide provisions to expand health insurance coverage for telehealth in 2020, speed up a process that would otherwise take years. Since then, there have been efforts to create permanent change, through things like Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021. But there is a temporary period that could lead to uncertainty about whether people will be able to get key telehealth services while the permanent law is enacted. Today, a bipartisan group of 45 lawmakers, led by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), tell them “calls for the expansion of extensive coverage of telehealth services to be included in legislation that must be passed in February.”

Group publish a letter addressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as minority counterparts and notable signatories including Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) , Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The letter reads, “As Congress prepares to enact the telehealth act in perpetuity, we urge you to include the extension of pandemic telehealth regulators into government funding legislation in February.”

Currently, pandemic telehealth decision makers have interim authority and that is tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. As stated in today’s letter, the emergency declaration is renewed in increments every three months. “Without clearer knowledge of the duration of the pandemic and Medicare’s enduring coverage of telehealth, many organizations have been hesitant to fully invest in telehealth.”

In addition to providing more confidence to providers that investing in telehealth will be a reasonable long-term investment, expanding telehealth coverage while keeping it long-term will also “reassure patients that Their care will not end abruptly.”

The lawmakers called for “An extension to maintain expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services for a certain period of time,” the letter said, “would provide much-needed certainty to the public. health care providers and patients.” They believe the extension will also allow more time to conduct studies on the impact of telehealth, which “could help inform Congress’s next steps on perpetuity and integrity television legislation.” of the appropriate program and protect the beneficiaries.”

As such, the group also asked to ensure that “the extension does not include unnecessary regulatory barriers to accessing remote services during this stage of data collection and analysis”, which could can prevent people from getting essential care.

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