Telehealth now 'embedded' in healthcare system: HHS secretary voices support for expansion

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during a July 9 virtual The Hill event that he supports expanding telehealth provisions that were lifted during the coronavirus pandemic and the agency plans to work with Congress for greater coverage. 

"I think we'd have a revolution if anyone tried to go backwards on this," Mr. Azar said, according to Politico. "This is now, I think, an embedded part of our healthcare system." 

Since the pandemic began, federal and state governments have lifted various telehealth restrictions to help expand access to care during the public health emergency. CMS expanded telehealth coverage and increased pay rates, generating significant increases in use. CMS Administrator Seema Verma has also been vocal about supporting permanent telehealth coverage. Prior to the pandemic, CMS provided 13,000 telehealth visits per week, but by April 25, the number grew to 1.7 million virtual visits per week. 

Mr. Azar added that HHS plans to "do everything we can by regulation to keep the gains that we've had to put the patient, that doctor relationship, the hospital relationship in the center." 

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