Cheney, Dingell Applaud House Passage Of Legislation

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) applauded the House passage of their Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act of 2021, which would extend through December 31, 2024 critical telehealth policies implemented during the pandemic to make it easier for individuals to access remote care and other emerging health care technologies. After being debated on the floor earlier today, the bill, H.R. 4040, passed with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 416-12.

Rep. Cheney first introduced legislation that would expand telehealth services in June, 2020 and was joined in introducing bipartisan legislation to accomplish this by Rep. Dingell last year. Please see below for a statement from Rep. Cheney:

“Because many of our citizens in Wyoming live hours and hundreds of miles away from their closest medical provider, we have long known how important it is for citizens to be able to take advantage of telehealth services in order to interact with their doctors and health care providers. 

“This legislation, which I have been proud to work on for over two years, will expand Telehealth capabilities by removing geographic requirements. It also expands originating sites so Medicare beneficiaries have better access to care, can obtain care from more practitioners, and can receive audio-only Telehealth. 

“I’m pleased to have worked with Rep. Dingell and other colleagues on both sides of the aisle in advancing this legislation through the House and look forward to the Senate passing this bill as well so it can become law and allow more Americans to utilize Telehealth services.”  -Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

In addition, Rep. Dingell issued the following statement:

“We saw telehealth services widely and successfully adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, now we must ensure those services are here to stay. For seniors, traveling to a doctor’s office can be a prohibitive barrier to receiving the care they need, and we cannot allow people who have come to rely on telehealth throughout the pandemic to have that resource taken from them.

This legislation brings us one step closer to permanently expanding telehealth services and allowing Americans to continue to access critical health care from the comfort of their home.” -Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)

BACKGROUND:

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress authorized bipartisan legislation expanding telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in March of 2020. Over the past two years, telehealth has increased access to services in rural and underserved communities and ensured continuity of care during challenging and unique circumstances. Current telehealth provisions are set to expire five months after the pandemic health emergency ends. 

The Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act is endorsed by the American Medical Association. Jack Resneck, Jr., M.D., President of the American Medical Association, issued the following statement supporting the legislation: 

“Increased Medicare-covered access to telehealth has been a lifeline to patients and physicians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased by today’s bipartisan vote in the House. The COVID-19 public health emergency made plain that care via telehealth should be available to all Medicare patients, especially with their own physicians, regardless of where they live or how they access these services. From continuity of care, broadened access to care, and removing geographic and originating-site restrictions, our hope is that the flexibilities afforded during the public health emergency will be made permanent. This legislation offers an important step in that direction by extending telehealth benefits to December 31, 2024. We urge the Senate to act on this bipartisan bill, and for the Congress to build on this success.”

BILL SUMMARY: 

This act would extend critical telehealth policies under Medicare that were initially authorized at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through 2024. 

Specifically, the bill would allow for the two-year continuation of: 

  • Increased range of locations from which a beneficiary may receive telehealth services by removing geographic restrictions and expanding originating sites. 
  • Expanded telehealth services offered by qualified physicians and practitioners, including: physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwifes, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, registered dieticians, and nutrition professionals. 
  • Medicare reimbursement of telehealth services provided by physicians and practitioners working for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs). 
  • Mental health services furnished through telehealth for up to six months without an in-person meeting. 
  • Audio-only telehealth services to ensure seniors and rural patients who may not have internet connectivity can receive the care they need. 
  • Expanded access to telehealth services for recertification of hospice care eligibility during an emergency period.