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The American Telemedicine Association and its ATA Action affiliate on Monday expressed support for a bipartisan bill that would extend the virtual care flexibilities of the public health emergency another two years. They also called for the legislation to safeguard two other provisions they said were key to health equity.

WHY IT MATTERS
Sponsored by U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, propranolol pregnancy test D-Michigan, the bill would address the so-called post-PHE telehealth cliff by removing geographic requirements and expanding originating sites for virtual care services through the end of 2024.

The bill as currently drafted also offers expanded eligible practitioners; telehealth coverage and reimbursement for FQHCs and RHCs; a delay of the in-person telemental health requirement; provisions for audio-only telehealth; and use of telehealth to satisfy Medicare face-to-face telehealth requirements for hospice care.

Leaders in the House are expected to bring the bill to the floor for consideration this week.

ATA and ATA Action applaud the potential progress – but are also calling on Congress to address two other “critical provisions” that could soon expire..

“While the draft bill meets so many of our shared objectives, the ATA and ATA Action are asking members of the U.S. House to include other vital priorities, such as an extension of the High Deductible Health Plan and Health Savings Account telehealth tax provision,” said Kyle Zebley, vice president, public policy, the ATA, and executive director, ATA Action.

Zebley also pointed to the Ryan Haight Act in-person waiver for the remote prescription of controlled substances, calling for “the same two year extension as the other provisions.”

THE LARGER TREND
Cheney and Dingell’s bill – read the full text here – has gained the support of other industry groups, such as the Connected Health Initiative, which has written to the co-sponsors with its own perspective on the necessary provisions.

The American Medical Association is also a fan.

“The success of telehealth technology adoption during the COVID-19 public health emergency has made it abundantly clear that this technology should be available to all Medicare patients regardless of where they live or how they access telehealth services,” said AMA President Dr. Gerald E. Harmon in a statement.

“Telehealth has allowed patients to maintain access to their physicians, and early evidence has shown reasonable utilization and costs,” he said. “This bipartisan bill would build on the coverage gains made during COVID-19 by removing outdated statutory obstacles to care.”

ON THE RECORD
“Congress has the opportunity to make a great piece of legislation greater,” said ATA Action’s Zebley this week about the proposed additions to the legislation. “Now is our chance to address health disparities and not leave anyone out from accessing needed telehealth services, particularly those in underserved communities. We thank Congresswoman Cheney and Congresswoman Dingell for putting forward this important bill.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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