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AFP Endorses House Ways and Means Medicare Telehealth Expansion Proposal

Jul 22, 2020 by AFP

Arlington, VA – Members of the House Ways and Means Committee released a discussion draft this week outlining a plan to further promote telehealth options for Americans. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) endorsed the proposal as an important step in removing the barriers that stand between Medicare patients and the remote health care they need.

AFP Senior Health Policy Fellow Dean Clancy issued the following statement:

“This proposal brings Medicare into the twenty-first century by making telehealth a permanent function of the program. Expanding telehealth means more lives will be saved and more families will have access to safe, affordable care. Making remote care options widely available will also leave us better prepared to deal with the next health crisis. We praise the House Ways and MeansCommittee for advancing this proposal and encourage Congress to work quickly to expand the telehealth services that countless Americans have come to rely on.”

The bill includes five key reforms that AFP has been calling for that would benefit patients:

Allows telehealth from anywhere. Permanently ends geographic restrictions, so any Medicare enrollee can use telehealth, not just those who live in a federally designated rural area. 

Allows telehealth from home. Permanently expands allowed settings, so Medicare patients can finally use telehealth in their own homes.

Allows audio-only technology. Permanently expands access to audio-only telephone calls, when audio-visual technology is unavailable, and the patient and provider have had at least one prior in-person meeting.

Allows more providers to use telehealth. Permanently allows certain clinical practitioners (physical therapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists) to give care via telehealth, and also gives HHS standing authority to waive limitations on other types of clinical practitioners. 

Allows more eligible facilities to use telehealth. Permanently makes federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics eligible providers.

As part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily removed waivers restricting the use of telehealth, allowing more patients to safely connect with medical professionals to prevent the spread of the virus. AFP recently led 35 organizations in calling on CMS to make several of these temporary waivers permanent in an effort to better prepare the nation for the next crisis.

The group also recently released a 6-part video series titled “Lessons from the Pandemic” that includes atelehealth video focused on the need to lock-in CMS’s temporary expansion of telehealth. That effort is part of AFP’s recently launched “Health Care Reimagined” campaign focused on enacting meaningful health care reforms that leave America better prepared to handle the next crisis.