House committee approves telehealth, hospital-at-home extension

A U.S. House committee approved a bill May 8 that would extend health systems' ability to provide telehealth and hospital-at-home care.

The Ways and Means Committee advanced the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act, which would ease telehealth requirements for Medicare patients through 2026 and extend the acute hospital care at home program through 2029. The pandemic-era rules are set to expire at the end of 2024.

"While we prefer Medicare telehealth flexibilities be made permanent, we understand the dynamics and applaud the committee for a two-year extension of many of the critical flexibilities without arbitrary and unnecessary guardrails such as in-person requirements," said Kyle Zebley, senior vice president of public policy for the American Telemedicine Association, which includes many large health systems, in a May 8 statement.

The legislation would provide geographic and originating-site waivers, repeal the in-person requirement for telemental health, allow audio-only telehealth, and expand Medicare telehealth providers to include physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and audiologists, while also extending the CMS waiver program for "hospital at home."

"We hope this action by the Ways and Means Committee will push Congress to enact this legislation soon to provide certainty for patients and providers across the country and allow  U.S. healthcare systems enough time to implement appropriate virtual tools, technologies, programs, and processes moving forward," Mr. Zebley stated.

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