AHA Letters of Support for Bill to Expand Access to Medicare Telehealth Services

Members of the House and Senate Telehealth Caucus recently introduced the CONNECT for Health Act (S.1512/H.R. 2903), AHA-supported legislation that would permanently remove all geographic restrictions on Medicare telehealth services and expand originating sites to include home and other sites. The bill also would expand telehealth for emergency medical care; waive restrictions on telehealth use during national and public health emergencies; and allow rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to serve as distant sites, among other provisions.


May 3, 2021

The Honorable Brian Schatz
United States Senate
722 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Roger Wicker
United States Senate
555 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Schatz and Wicker:

On behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups, the American Hospital Association (AHA) writes in support of the CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 (S.1512/H.R. 2903).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has provided a critical way for patients to continue to access needed care. We applaud the introduction of this bill, which proposes many changes that would allow for increased access to telehealth services for patients and use by hospitals and other providers, while removing barriers to adoption.

Specifically, we strongly support the provision in the legislation that would permanently remove the geographic and originating restrictions that currently limit where patients can access telehealth services. We also appreciate expansion of telehealth for emergency medical care, along with the ability to waive restrictions on the use of telehealth during national and public health emergencies.

In addition, the AHA supports allowing rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to serve as distant sites, so that these facilities may use the providers at their own sites to offer care to patients, ensuring patients remain connected to their primary providers. These sites are important partners to hospitals, particularly in rural and underserved areas. The AHA supports allowing critical access hospitals the same ability to offer and bill for telehealth services.

Further, we support that the legislation encourages the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test expanded telehealth flexibilities through alternative payment models. We also support requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt a more flexible approach to adding new telehealth services to Medicare that more proactively considers the positive impact of telehealth on access to care. This bill takes important steps toward achieving these goals.

Finally, as Congress continues to consider meaningful ways to improve the promise of telehealth, we want to emphasize that current Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services does not provide adequate support to all sites of care. For providers to be able to continue delivering high-quality patient care through telehealth and other virtual services, they need appropriate reimbursement for the substantial upfront and ongoing costs of establishing and maintaining their virtual infrastructure. We urge Congress to work with CMS to ensure the ability of providers to deliver high-quality care and improved patient outcomes.

We appreciate your leadership on this important issue and look forward to working together to ensure passage of the CONNECT for Health Act.

Sincerely,

/s/

Stacey Hughes
Executive Vice President
Government Relations and Public Policy


May 3, 2021

The Honorable Mike Thompson
United States House of Representatives
406 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Peter Welch
United States House of Representatives
2187 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Bill Johnson
United States House of Representatives
2336 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Dave Schweikert
United States House of Representatives
304 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Co-Chairs of the House Telehealth Caucus:

On behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups, the American Hospital Association (AHA) writes in support of the CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 (S.1512/H.R. 2903).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has provided a critical way for patients to continue to access needed care. We applaud the introduction of this bill, which proposes many changes that would allow for increased access to telehealth services for patients and use by hospitals and other providers, while removing barriers to adoption.

Specifically, we strongly support the provision in the legislation that would permanently remove the geographic and originating restrictions that currently limit where patients can access telehealth services. We also appreciate expansion of telehealth for emergency medical care, along with the ability to waive restrictions on the use of telehealth during national and public health emergencies.

In addition, the AHA supports allowing rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to serve as distant sites, so that these facilities may use the providers at their own sites to offer care to patients, ensuring patients remain connected to their primary providers. These sites are important partners to hospitals, particularly in rural and underserved areas. The AHA supports allowing critical access hospitals the same ability to offer and bill for telehealth services.

Further, we support that the legislation encourages the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test expanded telehealth flexibilities through alternative payment models. We also support requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt a more flexible approach to adding new telehealth services to Medicare that more proactively considers the positive impact of telehealth on access to care. This bill takes important steps toward achieving these goals.

Finally, as Congress continues to consider meaningful ways to improve the promise of telehealth, we want to emphasize that current Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services does not provide adequate support to all sites of care. For providers to be able to continue delivering high-quality patient care through telehealth and other virtual services, they need appropriate reimbursement for the substantial upfront and ongoing costs of establishing and maintaining their virtual infrastructure. We urge Congress to work with CMS to ensure the ability of providers to deliver high-quality care and improved patient outcomes.

We appreciate your leadership on this important issue and look forward to working together to ensure passage of the CONNECT for Health Act.

Sincerely,

/s/

Stacey Hughes
Executive Vice President
Government Relations and Public Policy

Related Resources

Letter/Comment
AHA urges the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the deadline for hospitals and other health care providers to use their COVID-19 Provider…
Letter/Comment
The American Hospital Association urged the Centers for Medicare…
Testimony
The increased use of telehealth since the start of the public health emergency (PHE) is producing high-quality outcomes for patients, closing longstanding…
Letter/Comment
Public
The AHA urge leaders of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to consider the potential…
Letter/Comment
Public
The AHA urge leaders of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to consider the potential…
Letter/Comment
Public
The AHA shares with Senate and House leaders the association’s recommendations for infrastructure investments that should be included in an upcoming…