HIMSS Advocates Extending Telehealth Access for Medicare Beneficiaries in Letter to U.S. Senate

Close up of a senior man consulting with a doctor on his laptop

HIMSS has co-led a joint letter signed by hundreds of organizations to U.S. Senate leadership, advocating for legislation to ensure continued access to vital telehealth services.

In the Sept. 13 letter, 375 leading healthcare and industry organizations asked the U.S. Senate to pass a two-year extension of critical telehealth flexibilities enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These flexibilities are currently set to expire 151 days after the federal Public Health Emergency ends.

Such an extension would provide greater certainty to patients and their providers that access to telehealth, which over 28 million Medicare beneficiaries leveraged since March 2020, won’t suddenly disappear.

The letter calls for the Senate to extend the provisions while working toward a permanent expansion of telehealth coverage. Specifically, the extension would lift provider and patient location limitations, remove in-person requirements for telemental health, ensure continued access to clinically appropriate controlled substances without in-person requirements, and increase access to telehealth services in the commercial market.

“HIMSS is proud to stand with 375 diverse organizations from across the healthcare community to urge the Senate to pass at least a two-year extension on current telehealth flexibilities,” said Tom Leary, HIMSS senior vice president and head of government relations.

“The uncertainty surrounding access to telehealth services will continue to impact key care decisions made by patients, providers, and health systems, particularly those in underserved communities. As we work toward comprehensive, permanent legislation, a long-term extension would provide the needed flexibility for patients, while collecting necessary data to evaluate telehealth use to accelerate the move to permanent telehealth coverage. We can’t go backward to pre-pandemic policies that reduce telehealth’s impact on access to care and patient safety,” he said.

The letter to Congress was co-led by the Alliance for Connected Care, American Telemedicine Association (ATA), College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Connected Health Initiative (CHI) Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Executives for Health Innovation (EHI), Health Innovation Alliance and Partnership to Advance Virtual Care.

HIMSS continues to leverage grassroots advocacy by calling on members to contact their U.S. Senators and express their support for passing telehealth legislation.

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