Expanding access to telehealth services to provide much more patient-centered, convenient care. Creating additional health care workforce capacity and avoiding workforce shortages. Removing barriers for patients and communities to access needed care.

These are just a few of the areas in which the federal government has taken action during the COVID-19 public health emergency and granted waivers to remove regulatory barriers that impede access to care.

We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and other federal agencies who responded quickly to implement many of the waivers requested by the AHA. These actions have been essential in allowing hospitals and health systems to react and adapt swiftly to new patient care needs, demands and decisions.

Hospitals and health systems have found that some of the new flexibilities and innovations are providing for a better patient experience and high-quality outcomes as well, regardless of whether they are operating in a public health emergency environment.

As we move from response, to recovery, to rebuilding, we are urging CMS to retain a number of regulatory flexibilities beyond expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and make some of the waivers permanent.

Among other actions, we are asking CMS to:

  • Expand the services that can be provided via telehealth and via audio-only connection; the locations where these services can be delivered, including in all areas of the country and to patients in their homes; and the practitioners and providers, such as hospital outpatient departments, that can bill for these services.
  • Allow health care professionals to practice at the top of their licenses and permanently permit out-of-state providers to perform certain services when they are licensed in another state.
  • Change the Conditions of Participation, such as reconsidering use of verbal orders and certain requirements associated with discharge planning to better equip providers to assist patients.

Removing these and other regulatory barriers standing in the way of efficiency and innovation will allow hospitals and health systems to provide better and more cost effective care to our patients and communities.

While we continue to work on these regulatory issues, we also must direct our attention to the next COVID-19 legislative package. The focus is on the Senate, and it is critical that your lawmakers hear from you now to make sure hospital and health systems' priorities are at the top of the list.

Please urge your senators to: 

  • Provide additional federal support for our front-line health care workers;
  • Enact full forgiveness of Medicare accelerated payments for hospitals;
  • Maintain health benefits for individuals and families, and increase coverage options for those who are uninsured; and
  • Grant appropriate liability protections to front-line medical providers and facilities.

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