On Dec. 9, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced The Telehealth Extension Act (H.R. 6202), a bill that would extend and expand access to telehealth services in the Medicare Program while imposing certain requirements for high-cost services. The bipartisan bill, endorsed by HIMSS, was also led by Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA) and David Schweikert (R-AZ).
The Telehealth Extension Act would remove many of the burdensome restrictions on telehealth under Medicare that have been waived by Congress and the administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This bill would permanently remove geographic restrictions, add the home as an originating site and give the HHS Secretary authority to expand originating site eligibility. It would also help support the adoption of telehealth in underserved communities by ensuring Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, Indian Health Service facilities and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems can furnish telehealth services.
Additionally, the Telehealth Extension Act would create a two-year extension of the COVID-19 emergency telehealth waivers to continue to allow new types of providers to provide telehealth and allow for audio-only telehealth and provide broad authority for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to authorize telehealth flexibilities during future emergencies.
However, the bill would also impose in-person requirements for certain services delivered via telehealth. Specifically, the bill would require an in-person visit within six months prior to the ordering of any high-cost durable medical equipment and high-cost lab tests. While the reason for imposing these restrictions is to promote program integrity for telehealth services that have been targets of potential fraud, there is always a concern about the impact any in-person requirement as a condition of telehealth eligibility will have on patient access.
Rep. Doggett serves as Chair of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over programs paying for healthcare including Medicare and will have an important role in determining the future of telehealth coverage.
The Telehealth Extension Act has received support from more than 15 organizations, including key leaders across the healthcare community, and already has 30 bipartisan cosponsors.
HIMSS provided insight and support to the Congressman’s office as they drafted this legislation. HIMSS is committed to advancing efforts made by this legislation to ensure expanded and equitable access to telehealth services.
The HIMSS policy team works closely with the U.S. Congress, federal decision makers, state legislatures and governments, and other organizations to recommend policy, and legislative and regulatory solutions to improve health through information and technology.