Congress members support permanent expansion of telemedicine

Congress members support permanent expansion of telemedicine

A group of 50 Congress members led by U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) recently sent a letter to Seema Verma, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator, supporting a proposed rule that would make permanent the expansion of telehealth benefits.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 14,000 Medicare beneficiaries weekly received a Medicare telehealth service. CMS added 135 services March 1 to the list of services payable under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule when furnished via telehealth. The move expanded telehealth services to more than 10.1 million beneficiaries.

Services include initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, discharge day management services, and emergency department visits.

CMS’ proposed rule would make permanent these changes after the pandemic ends.

“Throughout the current, unprecedented crisis, Americans have seen the benefits of expanded telehealth services,” the letter said. “Not only do these services help to facilitate public health mitigation strategies by increasing social distancing, but these services allow patients to maintain continuity of care to help avoid additional negative consequences from delayed preventive, chronic, or routine care. Further, telehealth services can help to increase participation for those who are medically or socially vulnerable, those who do not have ready access to providers, and those for which an in-person visit is not practical or feasible.”