06.18.20

Gardner, Wicker, Rounds request permanent Medicare coverage of telehealth services

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) joined a bipartisan group of 27 of their colleagues in seeking expanded and permanent Medicare coverage of telehealth services.

“Americans have benefited significantly from this expansion of telehealth and have come to rely on its availability” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the senators wrote in a June 15 letter sent to U.S. Senate leadership. “Congress should expand access to telehealth services on a permanent basis so that telehealth remains an option for all Medicare beneficiaries both now and after the pandemic.”

Specifically, the senators asked that the provisions from their bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act, which were included in previous COVID-19 legislation, be made permanent. 

“These provisions have resulted in an important expansion of access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic,” they wrote. “Expanded Medicare coverage of telehealth services on a permanent basis — where clinically appropriate and with appropriate guardrails and beneficiary protections in place — would ensure that telehealth continues to be an option for all Medicare beneficiaries after the pandemic ends.”

Because of the new authorities provided by Congress, Medicare has expanded coverage of telehealth services for the duration of the pandemic to include all areas of the country and to allow a patient’s home to serve as an originating site for telehealth, according to the lawmakers’ letter. 

Such changes have contributed to a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth services in Medicare, with available data showing that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services during the pandemic increased 11,718 percent in just over a month, they wrote.

Permanently expanding access to telehealth services “would assure patients that their care will not be interrupted when the pandemic ends,” wrote the senators. “It would also provide certainty to healthcare providers that the costs to prepare for and use telehealth would be a sound long-term investment.” 

Among the other lawmakers who signed the letter were U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

 

By: Ripon Advance News Service

Ripon Advance