Senator Lamar Alexander [R-Tenn.] has recently introduced a telehealth bill, Telehealth Modernization Act (S. 4375), contributing to the rapidly growing list of federal telehealth legislation. His bill would make permanent several telehealth coverage proposals being considered by the legislature and included in other bills recently introduced:
Remove geographic and originating site restrictions from Medicare coverage of telehealth services;
Ensure that telehealth services at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs) are covered by Medicare;
Give the Health and Human Services Secretary the authority to permanently expand the types of telehealth services covered by Medicare and the types of care providers who able to deliver those services; and
Enable Medicare to cover more telehealth services used for hospice and home dialysis care.
These provisions were included in temporary federal policy changes that have been enacted in the past few months to help care providers expand telehealth in an effort to continue services in the COVID-19 emergency. Most of those changes are set to expire when the public health emergency ends in October.
In a press release, the Senator said his bill would part of a three-pronged approach to improving the healthcare landscape. He also called for Congress to pass the CONNECT for Health Act, introduced by Senator Brian Schatz [D-Hawaii] to expand Medicare coverage for telehealth, and the COVID-19 HEALS Act, the latest coronavirus relief package. He said his bill comes out of a June 17 hearing in which the Senate health committee asked healthcare experts about the 31 temporary policy changes made to expand telehealth coverage.
His effort is one of many telehealth bills to be introduced. The list includes:
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program Extension Act, which aims to give the now-shuttered COVID-19 Telehealth Program another $200 million to allow the Federal Communications Commission to fund more telehealth programs;
The COVID-19 Emergency Telehealth Impact Reporting Act of 2020 (HR 7695), the KEEP Telehealth Options Act and the Evaluating Disparities and Outcomes of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Emergency Act of 2020 (HR 7078), both of which call on the HHS to collect data on telehealth use during the pandemic for an in-depth study on its effectiveness;
The Telehealth Expansion Act of 2020 (S 4230), the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act, and the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act, all of which aim to make permanent certain telehealth freedoms enacted during the pandemic;
The Equal Access to Care Act, which would allow care providers to use telehealth in any state to treat patients in any location for up to 180 days after the end of the COVID-19 emergency;
The Helping to Ensure Access to Local telehealth (HEALTH) Act of 2020, which focuses on extending telehealth coverage to FQHCs and RHCs; and
The Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act, which focuses on expanding telehealth coverage for substance abuse treatment.