On April 28, the U.S. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing
entitled, "Charting the Path Forward for Telehealth."
The hearing was largely bipartisan in nature, with both Democrats and Republicans asking panelists their thoughts on how to preserve recent gains made in telehealth delivery as a result of COVID. It included witnesses from health care provider groups, consumer groups and think tanks.
Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind noted that telehealth has been a lifeline for his constituents in the large, rural district he represents. He said he believes there's no going back at this point and that we need to amplify telehealth going forward. Kind noted concern from one of the witnesses about the use of audio-only telehealth, but indicated that he hopes coverage can be preserved for audio-only services, particularly given the gaps in rural broadband coverage in his district.
Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of Harvard Medical School shared the idea of creating telemedicine hubs in rural areas to give patients access to broadband and digital tools such as stethoscopes and otoscopes, tools that can give patients and providers more information than they would have simply through a phone call.
While some members mentioned wanting to ensure telehealth expansion did not increase opportunities for fraud in the Medicare program, Health Innovation Alliance Executive Director Joel White testified that the U.S. Inspector General is already able to use artificial intelligence and other tools that are good at rooting out fraud. Such tools, White noted, are already being used by many private companies. White also observed that concerns about fraud in audio-only telehealth are often more related to telemarketing fraud rather than telehealth fraud.
The members of the committee also touted legislation that would extend flexibilities granted during COVID as well as permanently eliminating geographic and site restrictions, items WHA continues to advocate for Congress to address. A day after the hearing, the Connect for Health Act was reintroduced. Among other reforms, this comprehensive telehealth legislation would permanently repeal geographic site restrictions while expanding originating sites to include the home and other appropriate sites. WHA has again endorsed this legislation, which has been cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 50 U.S Senators and also endorsed by more than 150 other state and federal organizations.
Contact WHA Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter
for more information.