Lawmakers Push for Permanent Telehealth Services
In a rare moment of bicameral success, 49 U.S. House of Representatives and Senate members introduced legislation (https://www.schatz.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Bicam%20EOY%20Telehealth%20Letter_12.4.20.pdf) to make permanent the Medicare telehealth coverage that had been introduced as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) led the bipartisan group in introducing the bill (https://www.schatz.senate.gov/press-releases/schatz-leads-bipartisan-group-in-introducing-new-legislation-to-expand-telehealth-services-improve-health-outcomes-and-cut-costs), which would:
- Provide the secretary of Health and Human Services with the authority to waive telehealth restrictions when necessary.
- Remove geographic and originating site restrictions for services like mental health and emergency medical care.
- Allow rural health clinics and other community-based healthcare centers to provide telehealth services.
- Require a study to explore more ways to expand telehealth services so that more people can access healthcare services in their own homes.
“We continue to hear from our constituents and healthcare providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth,” the lawmakers wrote (https://www.schatz.senate.gov/press-releases/schatz-leads-bipartisan-bicameral-group-of-49-lawmakers-in-calling-for-permanent-expansion-of-telehealth-coverage-in-end-of-year-legislation) in their letter to Senate and House leaders. “Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and healthcare providers during the pandemic and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.”
As ONS finalizes its legislative agenda for 2021, telehealth will remain a key issue. Oncology nurses are crucial to advocating (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/get-involved-in-onss-health-policy-advocacy) for patients and laws that will eliminate disparities to cancer care.