Legislators Ask HHS to Partner With Congress for Telehealth Bill

February 19, 2024 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with the U.S. Congress to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries maintain access to telehealth. Led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the group sent (https://www.hydesmith.senate.gov/wicker-hyde-smith-join-bipartisan-call-permanent-access-telehealth-medicare-beneficiaries) HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra a letter on January 29, 2024, making the case for permanent telehealth legislation before the current waivers expire at the end of 2024.

“Enacting permanent telehealth legislation will require collaboration between HHS and Congress in the year ahead,” the lawmakers wrote (https://www.hydesmith.senate.gov/wicker-hyde-smith-join-bipartisan-call-permanent-access-telehealth-medicare-beneficiaries). “We urge you to communicate to Congress and the public the authorities, appropriations, resources, and other supports needed to achieve this goal.”

Cosigned by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and U.S Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Bill Johnson (R-OH), the letter supported the consensus bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (H.R. 4189 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/4189/text?s=1&r=1)/S. 2016 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/senate-bill/2016?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%22s%202123%22%7D&s=1&r=4)), which would serve as the permanent telehealth legislation if enacted.

“Telehealth’s use goes far beyond navigating public health emergencies,” Hyde-Smith said (https://www.hydesmith.senate.gov/wicker-hyde-smith-schatz-reintroduce-bill-expand-telehealth-access-make-permanent-telehealth). “Americans face many obstacles accessing health care, whether it’s living in rural areas, old age, or mobility issues. This legislation would be key to providing them with the quality, affordable care they need and deserve. It’s time to get this done.”

The expansion of telehealth has had a tremendous impact (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/telehealth-the-future-is-now-for-patient-centered-care) on oncology care for both patients and healthcare professionals. It increases equitable access to care, reduces costs of care, and improves patient satisfaction. It’s also an effective method to deliver palliative care (https://www.ons.org/podcasts/episode-282-telehealth-based-oncology-palliative-care), particularly to patients in rural areas.

Increasing access to care and supporting teleoncology are two of ONS’s primary legislative priorities for 2024 (https://www.ons.org/make-difference/ons-center-advocacy-and-health-policy/health-policy-priorities-and-agenda). Learn how you can contact your lawmakers to advocate for passage of the CONNECT for Health Act and other legislation affecting patients and nurses on the ONS Action Center (https://www.votervoice.net/ONS/Home).

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