The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission should thoroughly review provider and patient experiences with the vast array of virtual services employed during the COVID-19 pandemic before proposing telehealth policies for after the public health emergency, AHA told the panel last week. 

“The AHA strongly supports MedPAC's continued conversations of the postpandemic future of telehealth policy,” the association wrote. “The increased use of telehealth since the start of the PHE is producing high-quality outcomes for patients, closing longstanding workforce gaps and those that arose as a result of a sickened and exhausted provider corps, and protecting access for patients too vulnerable to risk infection. This shift in care delivery could outlast the PHE if the appropriate statutory and regulatory framework is established. To do so, stakeholders must have time to conduct in-depth analyses of how providers have used the telehealth flexibilities available during the pandemic and the quality of patient care provided through those flexibilities. Given that the pandemic is ongoing and that the Biden administration has suggested it will maintain the PHE declaration through the end of 2021, considerably more data points on the quality and cost effectiveness of telehealth services will be developed this year."

In other comments on the issue, AHA recommended Congress and Medicare, as applicable, eliminate geographic and originating site restrictions to allow patients to receive telehealth in their homes and other locations; ensure access to telehealth for underserved populations; continue to cover and reimburse for audio-only services as medically appropriate; and adequately reimburse providers for telehealth costs.

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