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The latest telehealth expansion bill introduced to Congress would extend CARES Act provisions through the end of 2025 and compel the GAO to issue two reports on the successes and challenges associated with connected health.

The drumbeat continues to extend telehealth coverage beyond the coronavirus pandemic, with a new bill introduced this week in the House of Representatives aiming to continue several provisions in the CARES Act through the end of 2025.

The Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act, introduced by US Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), would also require the Government Accountability Office to report back to Congress three years after the bill’s passage, and again at five years after passage, on the successes and challenges associated with the expansion of connected health, particularly in rural areas.

“Telehealth flexibilities under the CARES Act have tremendously helped both patients and providers during COVID-19, and it is vital that we extend these waivers so Texans continue having access to essential care,” Williams said in a press release. “Telehealth technology is crucial now more than ever as medical professionals have largely had to adapt to screening and appointments via technology to care for their patients when face to face visits are too high of a risk. As we look toward further innovation and the future of health care delivery, I’m proud to introduce the Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act to improve the cost-effective delivery of these services and to allow our rural communities to retain critical access to lifesaving care.”

The bill focuses on six specific sections of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in March. The third such bill aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, it reauthorized the Health and Resource Service Administration’s Telehealth Resource Center grant programs at $29 million a year through 2025, boosted support for expanded broadband services, encouraged the use of remote patient monitoring for home health services in Medicare and funded new telehealth initiatives for the Indian Health Services and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Williams’ bill would extend until the end of 2025:

  • Section 3701: Exemption for telehealth services (regarding Health Savings Accounts);
  • Section 3703: Increasing Medicare telehealth flexibilities during the emergency period;
  • Section 3704: Enhancing Medicare telehealth services for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics during the emergency period;
  • Section 3705: Temporary waiver of requirement for face-to-face visits between home dialysis patients and physicians;
  • Section 3706: Use of telehealth to conduct a face-to-face encounter prior to recertification of eligibility for hospice care during the emergency period; and
  • Section 3707: Encouraging the use of telecommunications systems for home health services furnished during the emergency period.

The bill is one of many aiming to expand telehealth freedoms beyond the COVID-19 emergency or improve the landscape for the adoption of telemedicine and mHealth technology.

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