Congress must act to ensure patients and providers can continue to utilize the benefits of telehealth after the public health emergency ends.
Encounter Telehealth joined 340 organizations in signing a letter urging Congress to make the telehealth flexibilities allotted due to the COVID-19 pandemic permanent. A wide range of healthcare industry leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico represent this multi-stakeholder letter to Congress.
At the start of the pandemic Congress waived barriers, such as geographic restrictions, to allow for the expansion of telehealth. This enabled providers to deliver care virtually to their patients, and made telehealth available to all Medicare recipients.
Who It’s Helping
Telehealth has revolutionized health care in senior living communities across the country during the pandemic. Residents of skilled nursing, long term care, and assisted living facilities were locked down for months due to visitation restrictions during COVID-19. This lock-down not only applied to family and friends, but to many medical providers as well. Residents of these facilities quickly acclimated to telehealth, and have noticed the benefits of quality and convenient care available right in their rooms. Encounter providers offer therapy and stress management to combat the loneliness of our residents in lock-down. Encounter was also able to connect primary care providers to their facilities and residents, keeping residents and clinicians safe during the pandemic.
Residents in rural communities have also noticed tremendous benefits with telehealth. In some counties, people have to travel up to 45 minutes to obtain medical care. Mental and psychiatric care is even more scarce. Telehealth enables patients to be seen from the comfort of their homes, without having to travel or wait to schedule an appointment.
A Call to Action
If Congress does not act before the COVID-19 public health emergency ends, the current allowances will disappear. This will leave millions without access to telehealth. Therefore, 340 stakeholders drafted a letter to Congress explaining the necessary steps that need to be taken to ensure the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has the authority to make these telehealth flexibilities permanent. These urgent actions include:
- Remove obsolete restrictions on the location of the patient to ensure that all patients can access care at home– and other appropriate locations.
- Maintain and enhance HHS authority to determine appropriate providers and services for telehealth.
- Ensure Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics can furnish telehealth services after the public health emergency.
- Make permanent Health and Human Services (HHS) temporary waiver authority for future emergencies.
It is imperative that CMS have the authority to expand access to telehealth based on data and experience gained from the pandemic. Telehealth fulfilled a vital role allowing patients to be screened, evaluated, and to continue services and management throughout the pandemic. Patients deserve broad access to healthcare regardless of geographical restrictions or national emergencies.
View the Letter and Learn More
Encounter joined organizations such as the American Psychological Association, American Telemedicine Association, and the American Nurses Association in signing this letter. Read the letter HERE.
Find and contact your Congressional leader to urge their support in expanding telehealth permanently, click HERE.
To learn more about the benefits of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, view our our article ‘COVID-19 and Telehealth‘.