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House bill would cement Medicare telehealth changes

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services made sweeping changes that expanded telehealth protection for Medicare sufferers. A bill launched to the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday would make a few of them everlasting.

The Protecting Access to Post-Covid-19 Telehealth Act would codify probably the most important changes made throughout the Covid-19 pandemic: It would permit Medicare sufferers to proceed to entry telehealth appointments at dwelling. Before, Medicare had restricted telehealth to rural areas, and sufferers nonetheless needed to be at a health care provider’s workplace, nursing dwelling, or different authorised website for telehealth to be coated.

The bill would additionally permit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to proceed reimbursing for telehealth for 3 months after the general public well being emergency ends, permitting those that had benefited from expanded telehealth protection to entry it for longer.

It would additionally require a examine on using telehealth throughout the pandemic, and would give the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to broaden telehealth for Medicare sufferers in future emergencies.

The American Telemedicine Association praised the bill:

“The health of our citizens and the integrity of our healthcare system cannot withstand telehealth services to simply ‘switch off’ when the COVID-19 pandemic ends,” CEO Ann Mond Johnson stated in a information launch. “This legislation is an important step towards breaking down discriminatory geographic restrictions and modernizing our healthcare delivery system.”

Members of the House Telehealth Caucus launched the bill, together with representatives Mike Thompson (D- Calif.), Peter Welch (D, Vt.), Bill Johnson (R-OH), David Schweikert (R- Ariz.) and Doris Matsui (D- Calif).

Last month, a gaggle of senators mentioned telehealth coverage changes they would prefer to preserve. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) prompt conserving two: Allowing Medicare sufferers to have telehealth appointments at dwelling and reimbursing for extra sorts of specialty visits.

But extra than simply Medicare is required to make telehealth extra accessible in the long term. Many states have quickly expanded telehealth protection by means of their Medicaid applications, and a few have even stepped up necessities for business insurers. In flip, a number of insurers have lower copays for telehealth and expanded their coated companies, with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee being one of many first to say it would permanently expand what it is going to cowl through telehealth.

Photo credit score: Venimo, Getty Images

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