Post-COVID Telehealth Priorities Letter to Congress

June 29, 2020
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressional Leaders:
Thank you for acting to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) by providing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) the authority to waive longstanding restrictions on Medicare telehealth services and ensuring that additional types of health care providers can furnish telehealth services during the pandemic.

Providers across the country have utilized these flexibilities to scale delivery and provide older Americans, many for the first time, access to high quality virtual care, resulting in 11.3 million beneficiaries accessing telehealth services in mid-April alone. (1) Medicare Advantage plans have driven a similar expansion with 91 percent of seniors reporting a favorable telehealth experience and 78 percent likely to use telehealth again in the future, figures that closely track with similar patient satisfaction data from health systems nationwide. (2) Additional flexibility has also allowed Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) to deliver safe and effective care to underserved patient populations that have rated the service they received highly. (3)

Private health plans have also followed suit, and in response, telehealth adoption has soared – resulting in a 4,300 percent year-over-year increase in claims for March 2020. (4) Taken as a whole, these temporary policy changes have allowed 46 percent of Americans to replace a cancelled healthcare visit with a telehealth service during the pandemic. With so many patients accessing care virtually, expectations for the future of our healthcare system have shifted significantly and 76 percent of Americans now report having a strong interest in using telehealth moving forward. (5)

Driven by swift action from Congress and new patient demand, healthcare organizations are dramatically transforming and investing in new technologies to meet the needs of many Americans. Unfortunately, much of this transformation is dependent on temporary flexibilities extended to health systems and providers that are limited to the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. Absent additional action from Congress, Medicare beneficiaries will abruptly lose access to nearly all recently expanded coverage of telehealth services when the emergency declaration ends.

Virtual care has provided unprecedented access for patients, but it has become clear that uncertainty as to the future of telehealth under Medicare will halt or reverse further adoption and utilization – to the detriment of both patients and providers.

Given the statutory restrictions in Section 1834(m) of the Social Security Act and that the authorities granted to HHS and CMS through recent coronavirus legislation are limited to the COVID-19 public health emergency period, Congress must act to ensure that the Secretary has the appropriate flexibility to assess, transition, and codify any of the recent COVID-19-related telehealth flexibilities and ensure telehealth is regulated the same as in-person services. Congress not only has the opportunity to finally bring the US healthcare system into the 21st century, but the responsibility to ensure that billions of dollars in COVID-focused investments made during the pandemic are not wasted and instead used to support the transformation of care delivery and ultimately, expand access to high quality virtual care to all Americans.

With these critical issues in mind, we ask that Congress advance permanent telehealth reform focused on the following priorities:

  1. Remove Obsolete Restrictions on the Location of the Patient: Congress should permanently remove the current section 1834(m) geographic and originating site restrictions to ensure that all patients can access care at home, and other appropriate locations. The response to COVID-19 has shown the importance of making telehealth services available in rural and urban areas alike. In order to bring clarity and provide certainty to patients and providers, we strongly urge Congress to address these restrictions in statute by striking the section 1834(m) geographic limitation on originating sites and allow beneficiaries across the country to receive virtual care in their homes, or location of their choosing, where clinically appropriate and with beneficiary protections and guardrails in place.
  2. Maintain and Enhance HHS Authority to Determine Appropriate Providers and Services for Telehealth: Congress should provide the Secretary with the flexibility to expand the list of eligible practitioners who may furnish clinically appropriate telehealth services. Similarly, HHS and CMS should maintain the authority to add or remove eligible telehealth services – as supported by data and demonstrated to be safe, effective, and clinically appropriate – through a predictable regulatory process that gives patients and providers transparency and clarity.
  3. Ensure Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics Can Furnish Telehealth Services after the PHE: FQHCs and RHCs provide critical services to underserved communities and have expanded telehealth services after restrictions were lifted under the CARES Act. Congress should ensure that FQHCs and RHCs can offer virtual services post-COVID and work with stakeholders to support fair and appropriate reimbursement for these key safety net providers.
  4. Make Permanent HHS Temporary Waiver Authority During Emergencies: Congress has given HHS authority under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act to waive restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the waiver authority is specific to this particular PHE. Congress should ensure HHS and CMS can act quickly during future pandemics and natural disasters.

We encourage you and your colleagues to consider legislation centered on these priorities before the public health emergency expires, which would end beneficiaries’ access to virtual care. These priorities ensure HHS and CMS have the necessary authority to maintain oversight of telehealth services, guaranteeing access to safe, effective, and appropriate care while targeting clearly outdated statutory
restrictions that discriminate based on geography and patient location. Swift congressional action will provide a clear signal to patients, who are concerned about the future of their telehealth benefits, as well as providers and health systems, which are hesitant to make investments in critical healthcare infrastructure without certainty from policymakers.

We need your support in ensuring that seniors and providers do not go over the telehealth “cliff” – losing access to these critical services when they are still needed by so many. We look forward to working with you to build on the temporary reforms included in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can continue to access care when and where they need it.


  • Adirondacks ACO
  • Advanced ICU Care, Inc.
  • Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)
  • Adventist Health
  • Air Visits
  • Allergy & Asthma Network
  • Alliance for Aging Research
  • Alliance for Connected Care
  • Alliance of Community Health Plans
  • Allscripts
  • Alpha Medical
  • ALS Association
  • Altheia Predictive Health
  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
  • AMD Global Telemedicine
  • Amen Clinics, Inc
  • America Pharmacists Association
  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
  • American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nurses
  • American Academy of Audiology
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • American Academy of Neurology
  • American Academy of PAs
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  • American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
  • American Clinical Neurophysiology Society
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Geriatrics Society
  • American Heart Association
  • American Lung Association
  • American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL)
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • American Physical Therapy Association
  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Society of Nephrology
  • American Society of Pediatric Nephrology
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • American Teledentistry Association
  • American Telemedicine Association (ATA)
  • American Urological Association
  • Americans for Prosperity
  • America’s Essential Hospitals
  • AMGA
  • Amwell
  • Ascension
  • Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
  • Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
  • Association of Departments of Family Medicine
  • Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists
  • Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors
  • Association of Oncology Social Work
  • Association of periOperative Registered Nurses
  • Association of Public Health Nurses
  • athenahealth
  • Avera Health
  • Beacon Medical Group, Inc.
  • Better Medicare Alliance
  • Biofourmis, Inc.
  • BioscienceLA
  • BJC HealthCare
  • California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
  • California Health Information Association
  • California Health Information Services & Partnership Organization
  • California Primary Care Association
  • California Psychological Association
  • California Telehealth Policy Coalition
  • CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates
  • Cancer Support Community
  • Caregility
  • CareSpan USA, Inc.
  • Center for a Free Economy
  • Center for Freedom and Prosperity
  • Center to Advance Palliative Care
  • Centering Healthcare Institute
  • Centerstone
  • Central Logic
  • Cerner
  • Change Healthcare
  • Chesapeake Urology Associates
  • CHI Franciscan
  • Children’s Health Fund
  • Chimes International Inc
  • ChristianaCare
  • Clinical Informatics, Inc.
  • Coalition for Compassionate Care of California
  • Coalition For Headache And Migraine Patients (CHAMP)
  • Cohen Veterans Network
  • College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME)
  • College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP)
  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center
  • CommonWell Health Alliance
  • Compassion & Choices
  • Connected Home Living
  • Consumer Choice Center
  • Consumer Technology Association
  • Convenient Care Association
  • Cosan Group
  • CoverMyMeds
  • Curve Health
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • DestinyWell
  • Devoted Health Inc.
  • Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC)
  • Digital Medicine Society (DiMe)
  • Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA)
  • Doctor On Demand
  • Duke Health
  • eHealth Initiative
  • EHR Association
  • emids
  • Encounter Telehealth, LLC
  • Endocrine Society
  • Envision Healthcare
  • Epic Systems Corporation
  • Epilepsy Foundation
  • EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases
  • ExamMed
  • Excalibur Healthcare
  • Federation of American Hospitals
  • Fight Colorectal Cancer
  • Foothold Technology
  • Forefront Telecare, Inc
  • Frederick Health
  • FreedomWorks
  • Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research
  • Global Partnership for Telehealth, Inc.
  • GlobalMedia Group, LLC, DBA GlobalMed
  • GlyCare
  • GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer
  • Google
  • Grace Initiative Foundation Tree
  • Grapevine Health
  • Greenway Health
  • HCA Healthcare
  • Health Data & Management Solutions (An Aetna company)
  • Health Innovation Alliance
  • Healthcare Leadership Council
  • Heart Failure Society of America
  • HIAI-TOUCH (Telehealth Outreach for Unified Community Health) Non-profit
  • Hillrom
  • Hims & Hers Health, Inc.
  • HIMSS Central Pennsylvania Chapter
  • HIMSS Central/North Florida Chapter
  • HIMSS Delaware Valley Chapter
  • HIMSS Greater Illinois Chapter
  • HIMSS Indiana Chapter
  • HIMSS Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter
  • HIMSS Louisiana Chapter
  • HIMSS Maryland Chapter
  • HIMSS Minnesota Chapter
  • HIMSS Montana Chapter
  • HIMSS Nebraska Chapter
  • HIMSS New England Chapter
  • HIMSS Northern California Chapter
  • HIMSS Oregon Chapter
  • HIMSS South Carolina Chapter
  • HIMSS Tennessee Chapter
  • HIMSS Washington Chapter
  • Hospice Palliative Nurses Association
  • HSA Coalition
  • Immune Deficiency Foundation
  • IncludeHealth, Inc.
  • Indiana University Health
  • Indie Health
  • Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • Inovalon
  • InSight + Regroup
  • Intel Corporation
  • Intermountain Healthcare
  • International OCD Foundation
  • InTouch Health
  • K4Connect
  • Keck Medicine of USC
  • Lanai Community Health Center
  • LeadHealth
  • LeadingAge
  • Leidos
  • Leon Concierge Medicine
  • Less Government
  • Lewy Body Dementia Association
  • Life365
  • LifePoint Health
  • LifeWIRE Corp.
  • Lincare
  • LiveWell Alliance, Inc.
  • Livongo
  • Marshfield Clinic Health System
  • Mass General Brigham
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Medical Group Management Association
  • Medisante’ Group
  • MedStar Health
  • MedWand Solutions, Inc.
  • Mend VIP, Inc.
  • Mental Health America
  • MiCare Path
  • Michigan Medicine
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • MyndYou
  • National Association for Healthcare Quality
  • National Association for Home Care and Hospice
  • National Association of ACOs
  • National Association of Community Health Centers
  • National Association of Health Underwriters
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • National Association of Rural Health Clinics
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Athletic Trainers’ Association
  • National Council for Behavioral Health
  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing
  • National Diabetes Volunteer Leadership Council
  • National League for Nursing
  • National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders
  • National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI)
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • National Patient Advocate Foundation
  • National Psoriasis Foundation
  • National Taxpayers Union
  • Nemours Children’s Health System
  • NextGen Healthcare
  • Nonin Medical
  • North American Primary Care Research Group
  • Northfield Hospital + Clinics
  • Ochsner Health
  • Omron Healthcare Inc.
  • Oncology Nursing Society
  • Onduo LLC
  • One Medical
  • Optimize Health
  • Orion Behavioral Health Network
  • OrthoVirginia
  • Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
  • Parkview Health
  • Partnership for AI, Telehealth & Robotics in Healthcare
  • PAs in Virtual Medicine and Telemedicine
  • Personal Connected Health Alliance
  • Physician Assistants in Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Pillsy Inc.
  • Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services
  • Planted Recovery Inc
  • Point-of-Care Partners
  • Primary Care Collaborative
  • Primary Care Development Corporation
  • Providence St. Joseph Health
  • PursueCare
  • Qualtrics
  • Quio Technologies
  • Rebel Labs Inc.
  • Recovr Inc.
  • Reflexion Healthcare
  • ResMed, Inc.
  • ResolutionCare Network, LLC
  • Roman Health Ventures Inc.
  • Royal Philips
  • Rural Hospital Coalition
  • San Francisco Tech Council
  • Saunders Medical Center
  • Scripps Health
  • Shriners Hospitals for Children
  • Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
  • SOC Telemed
  • Society of Hospital Medicine
  • Society of Pediatric Nurses
  • Society of Teachers of Family Medicine
  • Spectrum Health
  • Spina Bifida Association
  • Stanford Health Care
  • Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC)
  • Strategic Interests, LLC
  • Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center
  • Supportive Care Coalition
  • Sutter Health
  • SYNERGIA Integrated teleBehavioral Health, Inc.
  • TapestryHealth
  • Taxpayers Protection Alliance
  • Teladoc Health
  • TeleMed2U
  • Texas e-Health Alliance
  • Texas Health Information Management Association
  • The Center for Telehealth & eHealth Law
  • The Commons Project Foundation
  • The ERISA Industry Committee
  • The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association
  • The Headache and Migraine Policy Forum
  • The Jewish Federations of North America
  • The Johns Hopkins Health System
  • The Joint Commission
  • The Learning Corporation
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
  • The University of Texas at Austin, UT Health Austin
  • Third Eye Health, Inc.
  • Tourette Association of America
  • Treatment Communities of America
  • Trinity Health
  • TytoCare
  • United Spinal Association
  • United Urology
  • University of California Health
  • University of California, Davis Health
  • University of Hawaii System
  • University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pinnacle
  • Updox
  • URAC
  • UsAgainstAlzheimer’s
  • Validic, Inc.
  • Verato
  • VeruStat Inc.
  • Virtual Medical Group
  • VirtuSense Technologies LLC
  • ViTel Net
  • Vodafone
  • Washington State Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
  • Welcome Home Health, Inc
  • Wellbox
  • Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN®)
  • Yale New Haven Health System
  • Ziegler
  • Zipnosis
  • Zocdoc



Download a copy of the letter here