ATA AND ATA ACTION COMMEND CONGRESS FOR EXTENDING TELEHEALTH FLEXIBILITIES POST PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY TO TEMPORARILY AVOID THE ‘TELEHEALTH CLIFF’, BUT WILL CONTINUE TO WORK WITH CONGRESS ON PERMANENT SOLUTIONS
WASHINGTON, DC, MARCH 9, 2022 – Responding to the just-released congressional omnibus spending package, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and ATA Action, the affiliated trade organization of the ATA focused on advocacy, issued the following statement:
“Last night, Congress released omnibus legislation to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. We commend legislators for including critical telehealth extensions in this must-pass legislation, ensuring that patients do not fall off a ‘telehealth cliff’ immediately after the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends. Extending Medicare and high deductible health plan (HDHP) flexibilities for approximately five months after the PHE expires is a step in the right direction,” said Kyle Zebley, Vice President, Public Policy of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and Executive Director of ATA Action. “We look forward to this bill’s expedient passage into law.”
Specifically, the ATA and ATA Action are pleased that if the omnibus passes into law, important flexibilities will remain in place for at least five months after the official expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency including:
- Originating site: Medicare beneficiaries will continue to be able to receive telehealth services from any geographic location, including in the comfort of their home.
- Expanding eligible practitioners: physical therapists, occupational therapists, special therapists and audiologists will continue to be allowed to provide telehealth services, further expanding access to needed care for patients.
- Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) & Rural Health Clinics (RHCs): The roughly 1,400 FQHCs and 4,300 RHCs can continue offering telehealth services post-PHE, including for mental health visits.
- In-person requirement for mental health: providers will not be required to see their patients in person prior to conducting a telemental health visit.
- Audio-only allowed: Medicare to cover audio-only services, an important tool to provide access to services, when appropriate.
— more —
“ATA Action has urged Congress to ensure that flexibilities remain in place regardless of the status of the COVID-19 public health emergency while it deliberates on permanent policy changes, including removing requirements on the patient’s location and delaying the prior in-person requirement for telemental healthcare,” added Zebley. “To that end, we commend Congress for continuing the safe harbor for High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) to offer telehealth services pre-deductible for the remainder of the 2022 plan year and appreciate that Congress has included a number of reports by HHS and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to analyze the utilization of telehealth in order to inform Congress’ work to permanently update policy. We are hopeful for a longer extension in the future or a permanent solution to provide more certainty to patients and providers that telehealth won’t disappear, but greatly appreciate this initial extension. We will continue to work with Congress and HHS on any additional authorities that may be needed.”
“ATA Action has also advocated for Congress to extend flexibilities offered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Ryan Haight Act for remote prescribing of controlled substances. Unfortunately, the omnibus package does not address waiving the requirement that patients must receive an in-person evaluation prior to being prescribed a controlled substance via telehealth. We are hopeful that the DEA will make progress on this issue in a more permanent fashion and urge Congress and the DEA to continue to prioritize this issue as an important mechanism for patients to obtain medically necessary treatments, particularly for those who have established relationships with their clinicians virtually during the pandemic,” noted Zebley.
About ATA Action
ATA Action recognizes that telehealth and virtual care have the potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by improving patient outcomes, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of care, addressing health disparities, and reducing costs. ATA Action is a registered 501c6 company and an affiliated trade organization of the ATA.
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 healthcare 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
# # #