The American Hospital Association (AHA) has published letters to the US Senate and House of Representatives. Within the letters, comments addressing CONNECT for Health Act were made, stating their feelings towards the possible extended usage of certain telehealth flexibilities. The government elected to place great emphasis on the healthcare industry when the COVID-19 pandemic transpired three years ago. Aid was given to the industry by accomplished by removing many barriers to entry that limited the use of remote healthcare delivery, allowing far easier access for US citizens to receive care from their clinician and specialists. The removed barriers were reinforced at the end of 2022, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, and Congress has maintained the flexibility up until the present day. The extension of telehealth flexibility goes through all of 2023 until 2024 in many cases, yet AHA proposes that some , many of the temporary provisions be made permanent, with no expiry date to their utility. The following provisions were recommended by the entity to become permanent:
- removing geographical and originating site limitations
- removing the need for in-person visits for telemental healthcare
- removing location limitations on federally certified health centers
- removing location limitations on federally certified rural health clinics
The AHA also showed clear support for healthcare policies that ensure coverage is provided for audio-only telemedicine, and to keep telehealth reimbursement equivocal to that of in-person care. The reasoning was explained in the letter, that stated: “Medicare beneficiaries reported not having computer or smartphone access at home. Continued coverage and reimbursement for audio-only services will ensure that patients without access to technology are still able to access care where clinically appropriate. Therefore, we would encourage explicit addition of Medicare coverage and payment for audio-only services in statute.”
The entity provided more advice, outlining steps that should be carried out to optimize remote healthcare, including more qualified telehealth providers and the elimination of licensing restrictions. The AHA also seeks clarification from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regarding the how registration takes place in telehealth administration of controlled substance treatment, in addition to further collaboration on digital framework in the industry.
The letter notes the significant development that has taken place in the telehealth industry since the original Creating Opportunities Now for Required and Effective Care Technology (CONNECT) Act that was passed eight years ago. The AHA expressed the importance of the letter, as they were writing on behalf of over five thousand of its institutions, health systems, medical employees, and healthcare executives.