Hundreds of organizations call for Congressional action on telehealth

July 6, 2020

The groups warn that without federal action patients and physicians can fall off the “telehealth cliff.”

On June 29, a group of 340 organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking for telehealth flexibilities introduced during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic be made permanent.

According to a news release, the statuary barriers which Congress waived allowing expanded access to telehealth at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic provided federal agencies with the flexibilities to allow care to be delivered virtually, but if they do not act before the public health emergency expires these flexibilities will immediately disappear.

The groups request that Congress:

  • Remove obsolete restrictions on patient locations to ensure that all patients can receive care at home and other appropriate locations
  • Maintain and enhance the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) authority to determine appropriate providers and services for telehealth
  • Ensure that Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics can provide telehealth services after the public health emergency has ended
  • Make HHS’ temporary waiver authority permanent for future emergencies

“The pandemic provided us with an opportunity to see the benefits of broad telehealth adoption,” Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of eHealth Initiative, says in the release. “Virtual care doesn’t just support COVID-19 care, it increases access to communities and consumers for whom traditional office visits don’t always work. Hundreds of organizations want Congress to make these changes permanent because they make sense clinically and financially for both providers and patients.”

“As we all work to understand the impact of the waivers put in place in response to the pandemic and assess what should be made permanent, we encourage Congressional leaders to focus on existing statutory barriers that must be immediately addressed to ensure the administration can appropriately transition and modernize telehealth under Medicare and importantly, keep us all from falling off the ‘telehealth cliff,’” Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, also says in the release.