Congress Proposes Telehealth Modernization Act for Permanent Access to Virtual Care

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Telehealth News

The United States Congress is taking steps toward improving telehealth flexibilities for Medicare beneficiaries with the introduction of the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2024. Led by bipartisan representatives including Earl L. Carter (R-GA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Greg Steube (R-FL), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ), and Joe Morelle (D-NY), this legislation aims to extend important telehealth provisions permanently. One of the key provisions of the bill is the permanent elimination of geographic restrictions on originating sites for telehealth services. This means that patients, particularly those in rural areas, will have continued access to telehealth services regardless of their physical location. The bill also seeks to allow rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to receive Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services, ensuring financial sustainability for these important healthcare facilities.

Another key aspect of the Telehealth Modernization Act is the inclusion of audio-only telehealth coverage within the Medicare program on a permanent basis. This is particularly necessary for seniors and individuals in rural areas who may not have access to reliable internet connectivity but still require important healthcare services. By allowing audio-only telehealth consultations, the bill ensures that these vulnerable populations are not left behind in accessing quality care. The legislation aims to expand the use of telehealth for hospice care and home dialysis assessments, provided they are clinically appropriate. This demonstrates a commitment to leveraging telehealth technologies to improve access to specialized care and monitoring for patients in need, even in the comfort of their homes.

The Telehealth Modernization Act of 2024 has gained support from various healthcare stakeholders and trade organizations. Entities such as the American Hospital Association (AHA), American Telemedicine Association (ATA) Action, and American Medical Association (AMA) have voiced their support for the bill, emphasizing the importance of ensuring continued access to virtual care for patients across the nation. The urgency to pass permanent telehealth legislation stems from the impending expiration of temporary regulatory flexibilities enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, scheduled to end on December 31, 2024. Healthcare stakeholders are calling on Congress to act swiftly to prevent a potential ‘telehealth cliff’ that could disrupt access to necessary virtual care services for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.

In response to mounting pressure, lawmakers are actively engaging with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prioritize telehealth initiatives. Senators and representatives have urged HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to collaborate with Congress and stakeholders to maintain expanded access to telehealth, emphasizing the need for timely technical assistance and data sharing to address implementation challenges. The introduction of the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2024 reflects a bipartisan effort to address the evolving healthcare landscape and ensure that telehealth remains a priority in the healthcare industry. By extending important telehealth flexibilities, Congress aims to enhance access to care, particularly for underserved populations, and promote the delivery of high-quality, patient-centered healthcare services across the nation.

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