Congress waives telehealth restrictions for coronavirus screening
As was requested by several leading healthcare technology organizations this past week, Congress has included a provision that waives some restrictions for Medicare telehealth coverage as part of its new COVID-19 supplemental funding package.
The American Telemedicine Association, HIMSS, the eHealth Initiative, Health Innovation Alliance and Personal Connected Health Alliance wrote recently to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and other Congressional leaders, asking them make money from the COVID-19 supplemental appropriation available for telehealth services and give healthcare professionals "as many tools as possible" to combat spread of the novel corona virus.
Yesterday the Senate voted 96-1 for an $8 billion emergency spending package that was largely similar to the bill passed the day before by the House, making funds available to expand testing of the virus. The bill next goes to the White House for President Trump's signature.
ATA, HIMSS and the other groups had asked the legislators to consider the CONNECT for Health Act, which lifts restrictions on Medicare telehealth coverage during emergencies, as they drew up the supplemental spending.
Noting that telehealth and virtual care solutions can expand access to care and enable timely treatment, while also limiting the risk of person-to-person spread of the virus, ATA applauded the move.
"We are heartened by the swift actions being taken by Congress to put the right tools in the hands of healthcare professionals to effectively address the COVID-19 outbreak," said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson in a statement. "Many ATA members are providing solutions that are helping to keep people safe and out of hospitals and doctors' offices, map the virus and triage individuals needing medical care.
"The ATA and its members will continue to work with federal and state authorities, including HHS and the CDC, to address the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure resources are appropriately deployed for those individuals in need of care and help keep health care workers safe," she added. "We urge CMS to implement its waiver authority as soon as possible to ensure health care providers understand any requirements and help speed the deployment of virtual services."