Congress Urged to Make Telehealth Access Permanent
Telehealth Access for America wrote a letter urging Congress to recognize the value of virtual care and the need to protect it.
Telehealth Access for America (TAFA), an American Hospital Association-created campaign to protect patient access to critical telehealth services, urged Congress to make permanent certain Medicare telehealth flexibilities granted during the COVID-19 public health emergency and extended through 2024 by the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
“This temporary extension was welcomed news for patients and providers alike, but remains just that—a temporary solution,” TAFA wrote. “According to a recent study, nearly three-in-four virtual care users want Congress to make current telehealth flexibilities permanent. The patients and organizations we represent need certainty that only Congress can provide. It is in the best interest of patients and providers nationwide that Congress make telehealth a permanent piece of the health care puzzle.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the lifted telehealth restrictions in response to the public health emergency (PHE) resulted in a 63-fold increase in telehealth utilization among Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries 2019 to 2020, totaling nearly 53 million telehealth visits in 2020 compared to less than one million in 2019.
“To name just a few of these many benefits, studies show that telehealth increases access to care without increasing costs to taxpayers, and average virtual care patients see a 61% decrease in their health care expenses compared to in-person care,” the letter read. “Clinicians and specialists also say telehealth helps improve access to underserved communities, communities of color, seniors and hard to access parts of rural America.
“Patients agree. A recent report found that seven-in-ten consumers say telehealth is better or comparable to in-person visits. According to MS and lupus patients like New Jersey resident Letita, ‘getting around can sometimes be difficult. But because of telehealth, I’m still able to access the care I need from my home.’ Stroke recovery patient George Hoffman shares a similar sentiment, “[telehealth] has been a game changer for me and my wife … Telehealth has saved me time, money and endless frustration trying to coordinate rides to and from routine appointments.’ And a 45-year-old woman in Illinois notes that, ‘Telehealth has been fundamental for my eating disorder recovery.'”
TAFA urged Congress to recognize the the value of virtual care and the need to protect it.
“The patients and organizations we represent need certainty that only Congress can provide,” TAFA wrote. “It is in the best interest of patients and providers nationwide that Congress make telehealth a permanent piece of the health care puzzle.”