Senate holds hearing on telehealth expansion

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee today held a hearing on telehealth lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Witnesses from the University of Virginia’s Center for Telehealth, American Telemedicine Association, Project ECHO and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee shared how certain legislative and regulatory changes to expand access to virtual care during the public health emergency are benefiting patients and could in the future if continued. Members of the committee also shared specific examples of increased utilization in their local hospitals.

In opening remarks, committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the federal government should permanently extend policy changes that nearly doubled the number of Medicare-reimbursable telehealth services and reimburse clinicians for telehealth services provided wherever the patient is located, and consider making 29 other COVID-19 policy changes permanent.

A bipartisan group of 30 senators this week urged congressional leaders to make permanent provisions included in previous COVID-19 legislation to expand access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries.  

AHA has identified legislative and regulatory actions needed to maintain or extend these and other telehealth flexibilities implemented during the emergency. The actions address provider/patient location; providers and facilities eligible to deliver telehealth services; types of services; billing, payment and coverage for telehealth.

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