Congress votes: A victory step for telehealth

Aug 26, 2022 | Dialer Enterprise

On July 27, 2022, Congress passed a bill in a 416-12 vote to expand telehealth services first introduced during the pandemic. The Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act is a win for patients and providers who, once the Senate approves the bill and it’s signed into law, will be able to continue providing telehealth care patients have grown accustomed to over the past two-plus years. Congress’s action signals that policymakers value telehealth’s role in delivering healthcare. This extension, through December 31, 2024, will provide beneficiaries and stakeholders with more certainty. 

What the bill says

The bill “modifies the extension of certain Medicare telehealth flexibilities after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” according to a government website. If the bill is not signed into law, the flexibilities originally set to run through the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will expire. Waivers that have been barriers to Medicare telehealth reimbursement would continue through 2024. Details of the bill include (but are not limited to):

  • Continuing to allow patients to receive telehealth services at any site, regardless of type or location (expanding healthcare access to patients);
  • Enabling occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language and audiologists to continue to provide telehealth services; 
  • Ensuring that federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics remain eligible for Medicare reimbursements.

Why the bill is important

“This is a tremendous step forward in making healthcare more accessible to patients, especially those in remote locations or who cannot easily see a care provider in person,” says Dr. Pete Alperin, vice president, Doximity. “The pandemic’s impact has led to the rapid adoption of telehealth, a benefit for patients. Improved reimbursement means better care for the patient and more care options for the provider to meet patients where they are in their health journey.” The legislation also requires broadened telehealth services provided by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, registered dietitians, and psychologists/clinical social workers, among other care providers.