American Telemedicine Association Offers Mixed Reaction To Telehealth Provisions In The Pandemic Relief Package, Keeps Pressure On For Permanent Telehealth Access

WASHINGTON, DC, DECEMBER 22, 2020 — The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) expressed optimism and resolve in response to the telehealth provisions in the pandemic relief package passed by Congress last night. The ATA remains steadfast in its mission to make access to telehealth permanent, to ensure millions of Americans maintain access to safe, quality care whenever and wherever they need it.

“The ATA credits Congress with increasing funding for the FCC’s telehealth work and allowing for the expansion of broadband, two important steps forward. We are also grateful that Congress included Medicare coverage for telemental health services, just one of the many clinical specialties that benefitted from telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, we are disappointed that the telemental health provision includes an in-person requirement, as we strongly believe a provider-patient relationship can be established via telehealth. Particularly in light of the crippling provider shortage, this   in-person pre-existing relationship requirement will unnecessarily deprive Medicare beneficiaries of telemental health options, and we are hopeful Congress will remove this provision in the near future,” said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO, the ATA. According to practice guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the ATA, telemental health “has demonstrated its ability to increase access and quality of care, and in some settings to do so more effectively than treatment delivered in-person.”

“In addition, the noticeable lack of permanent reform or a guaranteed extension of the telehealth flexibilities in this relief package is disheartening for the millions of Americans who relied on telehealth to access care, and our healthcare providers still on the frontlines of the pandemic,” added Mond Johnson. “We believe arbitrary restrictions on telehealth must be permanently removed to make way for a modernized and more accessible healthcare system. We applaud Congress for starting down this path this year but urge state and federal lawmakers to take definitive measures next year to act on permanence. There is still much work to be done to set the course ahead for access to telehealth following the PHE. The ATA remains optimistic that we will see movement in the new Congress during the months ahead and will continue to work to ensure access to telehealth becomes a permanent modality in a hybrid delivery system that includes both in-person and virtual care.”

About the ATA

As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading health care delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models. @americantelemed #telehealthishealth #ATApolicy