A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a bill to make telehealth reimbursement permanent for certain services such as those provided by physical therapists, audiologists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists.
Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) introduced the “Expanded Telehealth Access Act” on Thursday, according to The Hill.
If passed, the legislation would extend telehealth reimbursement policies that were temporarily added during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has long said that Congressional action is needed to make emergency telehealth measures permanent.
But on Tuesday, CMS released new actions that will allow Medicare to pay for mental health virtual visits furnished by Rural Health Clinics and Federally-Qualified Health Centers. This is through telecommunications technology such as audio-only telehealth calls.
Telehealth is particularly important for rural areas where patients may have to travel long distances for care.
The Senate bill has the support of the American Telehealth Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association, among others, according to the report.
The biggest issue in telehealth reimbursement remains. This is whether providers will be continued to be paid at in-person parity for a telehealth visit.
THE LARGER TREND
The Senate Bill is a companion to a House bill introduced in March by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) called the Expanded Telehealth Access Act.
In May, Senator Daines, one of the sponsors of Thursday’s legislation, with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), proposed the “Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021” to permanently allow first-dollar coverage of virtual care under high-deductible health plans.