In a letter to the US Senate, which was co-led by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and its advocacy group ATA Action and bearing the signatures of 375 stakeholders, it is requested that expanded telehealth access be supported for the following two years while working forward towards a permanent extension of the existing flexibilities and exceptions.
Upon the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the United States government announced a Public Health Emergency (PHE) in order to limit the spread of the deadly virus. The PHE eliminated a number of regulations within the health sector including regulations that restricted the extent to which telehealth could be used by providers. However, as the danger of COVID-19 pandemic weigns, industry experts believe the telehealth waivers will be removed.
To address this issue, the ATA and ATA Action sent a letter to the US Senate, urging the legislators to consider extending the PHE’s telehealth flexibilities and waivers. These include limiting constraints for in-person telemental health services as well as geographical restrictions on providers and patients who participate in telehealth. These flexibilities were extended through 2024 under a bill that the House enacted in July. However, the legislation will terminate 151 days after the public health emergency ends if the Senate does not approve it. The letter was signed by 375 telehealth stakeholders including Amazon, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, the American Nurses Association, Stanford Health Care, and Walmart. The letter, which was addressed to US Senators Charles Schumer and Mitch McConnell, went into detail about the advantages of telehealth, including how it will keep extending the boundaries of treatment. Concerns about a compelled switch back to in-person treatment are also highlighted in the letter. The letter states that the termination of these virtual services will limit the plethora of advantages they offer. Telehealth has made it possible for many patients to obtain care from a provider who is located elsewhere.
“This letter truly speaks from a strong, unified voice, representing the breadth of the healthcare industry. While we, 375 strong, seek permanency for telehealth access, our hope is that the Senate will at least match the full two years of extensions envisioned by H.R. 4040,” said ATA Action’s executive director Kyle Zebley, in a press release. “Further, in response to the recent actions of the House, the Senate should make great policies greater, by including those provisions left out of H.R. 4040.”