ATA applauds 2-year extension of telehealth flexibilities in Congressional Omnibus

By Mike Miliard

December 22, 2022

The American Telemedicine Association this week cheered the bipartisan omnibus appropriations bill from both houses of Congress for including a two-year extension for Medicare telehealth flexibilities that have been in place since the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared in 2020.

The telehealth group’s ATA Action affiliate also thanked leaders from both parties on Capitol Hill for the fact that the package also included provisions delaying the Medicare telemental health in-person requirement for two years.

“Congressional telehealth champions on both sides of the aisle came through for the American people and for ATA and ATA Action members, by meeting our plea for more certainty around telehealth access for the next two years, while we continue to work with policymakers to make telehealth access a permanent part of our healthcare delivery for the future,” said Kyle Zebley, senior vice president for public policy at the American Telemedicine Association and executive director of ATA Action, in a statement.

The omnibus also features a two-year extension of the safe harbor to offer telehealth in high deductible health plans with health savings accounts – and a two-year extension of the Acute Hospital Care at Home Program.

While the bill does not include a comparable extension of the Ryan Haight in-person waiver for the remote prescription of controlled substances, it does direct the Drug Enforcement Administration to put forth final regulations specifying the circumstances in which a Special Registration for telemedicine may be issued and the procedure for obtaining the registration.

Congress is expected to vote on the omnibus bill and send it to President Biden to be signed into law within the next week.

American Telemedicine Association and ATA Action have pushed to extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities beyond the PHE and through 2024 for many months as various bills with different provisions wended their way across Capitol Hill.

In September, ATA leaders spoke with Healthcare IT News for a broader conversation about what the future might look like for telehealth policy post-PHE.

“We asked Congress and they listened. We are truly grateful for their staunch support of telehealth,” said Zebley. “It’s now time to swiftly bring this bill to the President, for passage into law before year-end.” But, he added, “hard work continues, as we persist in pressing telehealth permanency and creating a lasting roadblock to the telehealth cliff.”