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Federal Government Can Avoid the Telehealth Cliff

At this time, it’s commonly known that the Federal government’s flexibility at the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency encouraged a meteoric rise in telehealth use. Simultaneously, the question of the future of those flexibilities – and, by extension, telehealth – will look like has lingered. Last year, electronic health services were essential in keeping vulnerable Americans, particularly our seniors, safe while still providing the care they required.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said in his opening remarks for a panel, “Last year, electronic health services played a critical role in keeping vulnerable Americans, particularly our seniors, safe from exposure while continuing to provide the care they need.”

Regulatory flexibilities that now ensure all Medicare beneficiaries have access to telehealth may disappear if Congress does not act before the public health emergency ends. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to Emily Yoder, an expert, has limited authority to make telehealth-related modifications.

The services that can be performed with telehealth and any other payment policy constraints, such as frequency constraints, are regulated. Yoder projected that telehealth would not become less of a focus under new CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-leadership LaSure’s in the executive branch. However, the primary potential stumbling blocks – such as the types of providers that can deliver telehealth or the originating site criteria – are governed by law.

As a result, she added, Congress must address those statutes, as it did briefly during the onset of the pandemic. Ascension’s Mark Hayes, senior vice president of Federal policy and advocacy, said the epidemic demonstrated that existing telemedicine regulations are “outdated.” All of this was written before the iPhone was ever released. They haven’t kept up with technological advancements—the uncertainty about when the public health emergency will end causes a great deal of worry.

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