Senate leaders support making certain COVID-19 telehealth policies permanent 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week expressed support to make certain telehealth Medicare policies that were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent. 

During the committee's June 17 hearing, Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said at least two temporary changes in federal policy to support telehealth during the public health emergency should be extended permanently. The first is to permanently extend policy changes that allowed physicians to be reimbursed for telehealth visits wherever the patient is located, and the second is to permanently extend the policy change that expanded the number of telehealth services that could be reimbursed by Medicare. 

Mr. Alexander said there are 29 other temporary federal policy changes that may also be considered for being made permanent, and he urged Congress to move quickly on expanding the policies, according to a June 17 news release. 

“Even with an event as significant as COVID-19, memories fade and attention moves quickly to the next crisis, so it is important for Congress to act on legislation this year," he said. "Because of this 10 years of telehealth experience crammed into 3 months — patients, doctors, nurses, therapists, and caregivers can write some new rules of the road, and we should do so while the experiences still are fresh on our minds.”

During the hearing, witnesses from University of Virginia's Center for Telehealth, American Telemedicine Association and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee testified in support of making the temporary telehealth policies permanent. 

More articles on telehealth: 
3 characteristics of patients preferring telemedicine vs. in person visits
CMS' stance on permanent telehealth coverage: A timeline of Seema Verma's statements
New York expands Medicaid telemedicine services

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