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Association Asks HHS to Make Telehealth Flexibility Permanent

In a letter, America’s Essential Hospitals urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to expand vulnerable populations’ access to lifesaving care by broadening the scope of telehealth reimbursement and lifting barriers to Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services.

As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expanded the list of reimbursable telehealth services, waived geographic and site-of-service restrictions on the originating site, and allowed hospitals to bill an originating-site fee. These changes rapidly increased telehealth services provided by essential hospitals, thereby improving access to care and removing barriers to care for vulnerable patients.

These flexible policies are indispensable as essential hospitals continue to respond to COVID-19 and prepare for future outbreaks. The current pandemic has demonstrated the efficacy of telehealth in providing high-quality, cost-effective care while protecting health care staff on the front lines.

To continue providing the best care to patients who need it most, America’s Essential Hospitals asked the administration to:

  • permanently add a broad variety of services to the list of Medicare reimbursable telehealth services;
  • allow reimbursement of certain services provided using audio-only technology;
  • facilitate the provision of communication technology–based services (CTBS) by allowing them for both new and established patients;
  • add mobile phones to the definition of interactive telecommunications systems that can be used to participate in a telehealth service;
  • reimburse practitioners providing telehealth services based on where the provider is located while providing the service; and
  • work with Congress to expand access to high-quality care through the provision of telehealth.
Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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