The Telehealth Expansion Act would make permanent the CARES Act authority enacted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that enabled employers/health plans to provide covered telehealth services to individuals with a high-deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account (HDHP-HSA) before their deductible is met. This policy is is currently set to expire December 31, 2024.
We invite organizations to sign this letter by October 6.
Sen. Daines (R-MT): Introduction of the Expanded Telehealth Access Act (S. 2880) (9/21) - Sens. Daines (R-MT) and Smith (D-MN) introduced the Expanded Telehealth Access Act (S. 2880), which would expand the types of practitioners eligible for payment for telehealth services under the Medicare program. Expanded telehealth services help relieve transportation burdens and give patients increased access to quality, affordable care.
Rep. Thompson (R-PA): Introduction of the Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth (HEALTH) Act of 2023 (9/20) - Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Kuster (D-NH) introduced the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5611), which would provide for permanent payments for telehealth services furnished by Federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics under the Medicare program. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has added tremendous reach and value to communities across the country, especially in rural America. The HEALTH Act builds upon previously enacted provisions in the COVID-19 relief packages and provides access to vital health care services for more seniors, regardless of their geographic location.
Sen. Sanders (I-VT): Introduction of the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act (S. 2840) (9/19) - On September 19, Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Marshall (R-KS) introduced the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act (S. 2840), which would improve access to and the quality of primary health care, and expand the health workforce. Specifically, the bill would prohibit hospitals from charging health plans and issuers a facility fee for services provided in off-campus HOPDs and for many services in on-campus HOPDs, including evaluation and management, telehealth and others. This provision would jeopardize access to telehealth, among other services, particularly for rural and underserved areas. The bill passed out of the Senate HELP Committee by a 14-7 vote. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Rep. Latta (R-OH): Introduction of the Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act (H.R. 5541) (9/18) - Reps. Latta (R-OH) and Dingell (D-MI) introduced the TREAT Act (H.R. 5541), which would provide temporary licensing reciprocity for telehealth and interstate health care treatment only in the event of a public health emergency.
Rep. Balderson (R-OH): Introduction of the Expanding Remote Monitoring Access Act (H.R. 5394) (9/12) - Reps. Balderson (R-OH), Porter (D-CA), Dunn (R-FL), and Murphy (R-NC) introduced the Expanding Remote Monitoring Access Act (H.R. 5394), which would ensure appropriate access to remote monitoring services furnished under the Medicare program. Remote monitoring devices and technology enable health care providers to observe and treat patients from the comfort of their own homes. With remote monitoring, providers are able to catch adverse health events earlier and keep their patients out of the hospital. The bill was also discussed during a House Energy & Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee legislative hearing, where Dr. Dora Hughes, Acting Director of Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, committed to working with Congress on the bill.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
KeyCare: Consumers Prefer Telehealth Over In-office Visits for Routine Care, Medication Refills & Behavioral Health (9/28) - According to a survey from KeyCare, consumers continue to express a strong preference for telehealth over in-office care for several types of visits. the majority reported participating in multiple telehealth visits over the prior year and shared that their favorite aspects of telehealth are time savings, quick access to care, and cost savings. Additionally, 84 percent of consumers reported seeing their own regular doctor or an associate of that doctor for telehealth, while 78 percent said that their virtual provider had access to their long-term medical records during the visit.
Milbank Memorial Fund: Assessing the Impact of Medicaid Telehealth Policy Change on Equitable Access to Telehealth Services in North Carolina (9/26) - Telehealth offer rates and use in North Carolina Medicaid varied by race and ethnicity during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic despite more flexible policies and digital infrastructure investments in rural areas. Improving equitable access to and delivery of telehealth services may include strategies such as maintaining broad telehealth access postpandemic, creating remote “hubs” where patients can access secure technology, and harnessing benefits such as digital technologies to broaden access. Addressing health equity, in particular, may require evaluating strategies such as ensuring providers offer telehealth services to all patients and complete implicit bias training.
The Permanente Journal: Benefits and Challenges of Remote Patient Monitoring as Perceived by Health Care Practitioners: A Systematic Review (9/22) - Remote patient monitoring (RPM), or telemonitoring, offers ways for health care practitioners to gather real-time information on the physiological conditions of patients. As telemedicine, and thus telemonitoring, is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s society, understanding the practitioners’ opinions is crucial. This systematic review evaluates the perspectives and experiences of health care practitioners with telemonitoring technologies. The review found common benefits included continuous monitoring of patients to provide prompt care, improvement of patient self-care, efficient communication, increased patient confidence, visualization of health trends, and greater patient education. Challenges comprised increased workload, higher patient anxiety, data inaccuracy, disorienting technology, financial issues, and privacy concerns.
Kaiser Permanente: Most Telehealth Users Are Interested in Using It Again (9/21) - A survey of 1,000 Kaiser Permanente Northern California patients who used a phone or video visit to see their primary care doctor in 2020 found that most were satisfied with their visit, and two-thirds are interested in using telemedicine again. The survey, published in the journal Medical Care, results suggest that once patients tried a phone or video visit, and found it useful or valuable, they would use it again for convenience. Most (85 percent) of respondents who had a recent video or telephone visit said the visit addressed their health needs, and 80 percent agreed that telemedicine addressed their health needs as well as an in-person visit when a physical exam is not needed.
Medical Economics: Costco Offering Primary Care Telehealth Visits (9/26) - Costco is now offering same-day $29 primary care telehealth visits. Costco and Sesame have established a partnership that enables Costco members to utilize Sesame’s telehealth services. Costco members can get a virtual primary care visit from Sesame for $29.
Health Leaders: Dartmouth Health Uses Telemedicine to Help with Difficult Births (9/26) - New Hampshire has seen 11 of its 27 hospitals close their labor and delivery units since 2011—all but one in rural areas—leading to more complicated births in ill-equipped emergency departments or other locations, such as the back of an ambulance. Dartmouth Health has launched a virtual training course to help rural providers learn more about handling difficult births, and it has beefed up its telemedicine network to enable rural hospitals to have on-demand access to OB-GYN and TeleICN specialists.
Managed Healthcare Executive: Using Telehealth as a Tool to Improve Equity (9/21) - The Lown Institute unveiled its ranking of America’s most racially inclusive hospitals this week, and Boston Medical Center secured the top spot on the list. Elena Mendez-Escobar, co-director and executive director of strategy at Boston Medical Center’s Health Equity Accelerator, pointed to the importance of making it easier for patients to get the care they need through the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring. Boston Medical Center has been using remote patient monitoring to help keep tabs on pregnant patients to help them avoid more serious complications. Boston Medical Center is providing patients with remote blood pressure cuffs so they can do checks at home, and the devices transmit the information to their doctor’s office.
Marquette Today: Telehealth Researchers Aim to Find New Uses for Long-Distance Health Care (9/20) - A community of Marquette researchers is aiming to better prepare providers and improve health outcomes. Founded in 2021 through a $1.5 million private family foundation grant, the Marquette Telehealth Accelerator supports research that improves efficacy and equity in virtual care. The Marquette Telehealth Research Community functions in tandem with the accelerator to bring together faculty, students and external telehealth practitioners. It meets four times per year to discuss recent developments in the field and to foster collaboration between individuals working on similar problems.
American Medical Association (AMA), "How Telehealth Can Save Money, Improve Outcomes, and Advance Equity"(9/28) - As hospitals and health systems continue to figure out how to best integrate telehealth into the care options they offer patients, the benefits of technology go well beyond just the dollars and cents. In an episode of the “AMA STEPS Forward® Podcast,” neurologist Lee Schwamm, MD, detailed the progress that Massachusetts General Hospital has seen with the teleneurology and telestroke services since the initial case study done in 2021.
AMA, "Building on Telehealth Gains Will Boost Access to Care." Virtual patient care exploded during the pandemic out of necessity, but its promise as an integral part of modern medical care was established long before. Telehealth can be a lifeline for all patients, but particularly those with limited mobility, those in in rural, economically or socially marginalized communities, and those managing a chronic illness. By ensuring that physicians play a prominent role in the design and implementation of telehealth technology, the AMA is committed to digital health solutions that advance equity and benefit all parties in the health care equation.