Permanent & Comprehensive Telehealth Reform: 336 Groups Submit Letter to Congress

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According to a January 31 press release from the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), in early 2022, 336 pro-telehealth organizations signed a joint letter sent to Congress urging guidance for creating permanent, comprehensive telehealth reform. The letter stated, “facilitating a pathway to comprehensive permanent telehealth reform that would provide certainty to patients and our nation’s healthcare providers while providing sufficient time for Congress and the administration to analyze the impact of telehealth on patient care.”

The effort was co-led by the Alliance for Connected Care, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), the College of Health Care Information Management Executives (CHIME), the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Executive for Health Information (EHI), the Health Innovation Alliance, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Partnership to Advance Virtual Care and the Personal Connected Health (PCH) Alliance.

The Rationale for the 2022 Telehealth Reform Letter

Much of the uncertainty regarding telehealth reform revolves around the COVID public health emergency (PHE) renewal. The need for the PHE to be renewed every 90-days creates a lack of reliability that makes it difficult for stakeholders to make the commitments necessary to sustain efforts to date. The letter urged Congress to protect the right and choice to see a provider via telehealth after the pandemic. More specifically, the ATA letter also asks Congress to clarify existing confusion by enacting legislation to:

  • Permit all current telehealth waivers to be continued through December 31, 2024
  • Require Health and Human Services (HHS) to complete all possible telehealth evaluations by the fall of 2023 
  • Combine findings into a single dashboard that includes congressional recommendations on permanent telehealth legislations
  • Implement permanent telehealth legislation in 2024.

The telehealth reform letter included key points from two notable telehealth leaders:

Kyle Zebley, Vice President, Public Policy, ATA and Executive Director, ATA Action, stated, “Now is the time to give certainty to the millions of Americans who have come to rely on virtual care and give healthcare providers the tools they need to continue to deliver uninterrupted, quality care to their patients.” Zebley continued, “This is a pivotal moment for Congress to act and secure a bipartisan win while taking much-needed steps to modernize our healthcare system. The ATA pledges to continue to do all we can to work with our Congressional telehealth champions to secure passage of telehealth provisions as soon as possible.”

René Quashie, Vice President, Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Digital Health, Consumer Technology Association, stated, “The pandemic has shown the transformative role virtual care can play in our overall healthcare system, especially ensuring quality care is accessible to as many people as possible. The waivers were a key part in allowing healthcare providers to meet patients where they live, and we risk reversing the great progress we have seen if we go back to the way things were before the pandemic.” Quashie continued, “Congress should give seniors the option to use telehealth beyond this pandemic with a clean expansion through the end of 2024. Brett Meeks from Health Innovation Alliance said ” This action will give certainty that these services will continue while working towards the ultimate goal of permanent reform,”.

US Voter Survey on Telehealth Protections

According to Erik Iverson and Kelly Middendorff of the Moore Information Group, its Voter Survey on Permanent Telehealth Protections  found many US voters:

  1. Have very positive views toward telehealth, with a majority saying it improves the overall quality of health care. 
  2. Have utilized telehealth in the last year, and the majority reported having a positive experience. 
  3. Strongly agree with Congress’s decision to lift telehealth restrictions temporarily. 
  4. Want to continue to have the choice to access and utilize telehealth services.
  5. Overwhelmingly want Congress to act and pass permanent protections for telehealth.

Last Words

Legislative advocacy efforts have been reported by TBHI over the years, most notably in 2020 with Telehealth Reform: US Congress Heeds Public Outcry. This joint letter written by telehealth groups is unprecedented and could lead to notable change. The steps outlined in the recent ATA letter submitted to Congress will protect Americans’ ability and choice to see a telehealth provider post-pandemic. They will allow patients and clients to conveniently seek out healthcare via the virtual methods that have become a fundamental part of the healthcare system. Hopefully, Congress will get on board to provide the country’s desperately needed telehealth reform. 

TBHI encourages all readers to advocate for these telehealth reforms by contacting their elected officials, citing the ATA-submitted letter, and urging their support.

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