House Committee Passes Bill to Permanently Extend Telehealth Services

The House Ways and Means Committee has unanimously passed the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act, aiming to permanently extend telehealth services for rural health clinics. The bill now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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House Committee Passes Bill to Permanently Extend Telehealth Services

House Committee Passes Bill to Permanently Extend Telehealth Services

The U.S. House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee has unanimously passed the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act (H.R. 8261), a bipartisan bill that aims to permanently extend telehealth services for federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics. The legislation, introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), acknowledges the vital role telehealth has played in healthcare delivery, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why this matters: The permanent extension of telehealth services has the potential to revolutionize healthcare access, particularly for rural and underserved communities, by providing them with equal access to quality healthcare. Thislegislation could also pave the way for further innovation and investment in healthcare technology, ultimately improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.

The bill provides for a two-year extension of telehealth exemptions authorized during the pandemic, which were last extended in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 and are set to expire in December 2024. It also extends Hospital-at-Home flexibilities for five years and provides Medicare supplemental payments for rural hospitals and ambulance services.

Specific policies under consideration in thelegislationinclude extending nursing home initial visits and discharge day codes for use through 2026, as well as extending hospice providers' flexibility to perform face-to-face recertification via telehealth. The committee's approval of thesebillsaims to preserve vital telehealth and health-at-home access, prevent rural hospital closures, incentivize greater access to ambulance services, and expand the number of doctors and nurses in rural communities.

"Considering the enormous and growing importance of health care at home to the larger health care continuum, it's vital to ensure adequate funding and to continue to modernize care delivery, utilizing new technologies to deliver care to everyone who needs it,"said National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) President William A. Dombi. Thebillhas garnered support from organizations such as NAHC and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

The legislation now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration. If passed, it will then proceed to the Senate before potentially reaching the president's desk to be signed into law. NAHC has pledged to remain engaged in the fight for this legislation until it is enacted.

In a related development, a bipartisan group of 40 members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Beth Van Duyne, sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking updates and answers on addressing hospice fraud and program integrity challenges. This effort underscores the ongoing commitment to ensuring the quality and accessibility of healthcare services, particularly for vulnerable populations.

The passage of the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act by the House Ways and Means Committee represents a significant step towards permanently extending telehealth services and improving healthcare access for millions of Americans, especially those in rural and underserved communities. As the bill progresses through the legislative process, its impact on the future of healthcare delivery in the United States will be closely watched.