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May 08, 2024

Schweikert, Thompson Celebrate Committee Passage of Legislation Extending Telehealth Services for Medicare Patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Representatives David Schweikert (AZ-01) and Mike Thompson (CA-04) applauded the House Ways and Means Committee for unanimously passing the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act, bipartisan legislation they introduced which would extend Medicare patients’ access to telehealth services for an additional two years, as well as make needed program reforms so seniors can continue to receive critical medical care at home. 

Telehealth access was expanded for Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect vulnerable seniors, providing them greater flexibility to meet with providers without risk of exposure at health care facilities. In 2022, Congress extended these key services through the end of 2024. This legislation ensures that patients can continue to get the care they need through telehealth without any lapse in coverage.

“Embracing telehealth is one of the most moral actions we can take to expand patient access to health care providers, which will in turn make our brothers and sisters healthier while reducing overall costs,” said Rep. Schweikert. “This bipartisan bill ensures that patients can continue to meet virtually with their providers and receive the quality care they deserve to make informed decisions about their health. I’m pleased to see the Ways and Means Committee pass this legislation, and I look forward to working with Rep. Thompson to pass this bill through the House.”

“For patients with limited broadband access or those living in remote and rural areas, telehealth technologies have proven to be a critical lifeline for patients seeking quality and reliable care,” 
said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08). “Rep. Schweikert’s bill, the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act, will help leverage these technologies to deliver better access to care for Americans at home, as well as ensuring rural hospitals and ambulance services are better funded so that rural communities can maintain access to these critical services.”

“Since my days in the State Senate, I’ve been a big believer in telehealth’s ability to save money, time, and lives,” 
said Rep. Thompson. “Telehealth allows Medicare beneficiaries—especially those with low mobility or who otherwise can’t make it to the doctor’s office—to access the care they need when they need it. Protecting seniors’ access to telehealth’s vital services just makes sense. I look forward to working with my co-lead, Rep. Schweikert, to bring this to the floor for a vote.” What industry leaders are saying:

“The ATA and ATA Action applaud Representatives Schweikert and Thompson for leading the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act which would extend many of the Medicare telehealth flexibilities for two years or through CY2026,” said Kyle Zebley, Senior Vice President, public policy, American Telemedicine Association, and Executive Director, ATA Action. “We are supportive of this extension that would ensure millions of Medicare beneficiaries do not lose access to critical, lifesaving care at the end of this calendar year. We are thrilled the House Ways and Means Committee advanced this legislation today on a bipartisan basis and hope Congress will continue to move this legislation forward sooner rather than later this year to provide certainty for patients and providers across the country.”

“The Alliance for Connected Care continues to strongly support Representatives Schweikert and Thompson’s longstanding leadership to expand telehealth access,” 
said Chris Adamec, Executive Director, Alliance for Connected Care. “We deeply appreciate actions taken today to create two years of certainty for Medicare beneficiaries who are using telehealth and risk losing access at the end of this year. We call on Congress to build on this momentum to pass major telehealth legislation into law.”

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representative Schweikert for recognizing the importance of extending the rural health programs and designations in the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act,” 
said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer, NHRA. “This legislation continues some of the most critical telehealth flexibilities for rural providers and patients and extends special payment designations that promote access to care for rural residents.”

“Moving Health Home is thrilled to see the inclusion of a five-year extension of the important Acute Hospital Care at Home (AHCAH) waiver in the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act (H.R. 8261),” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director, Moving Health Home. “This extension will allow many Medicare beneficiaries to access acute hospital at home programs, which has demonstrated improved clinical outcomes, higher rates of patient satisfaction, and reduced health care costs.”

“People with chronic health conditions such as MS greatly benefit from telehealth flexibilities because they help facilitate timely access to meaningful care,” said Steffany Stern, Vice President of Advocacy, National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “The Society commends the Committee’s efforts on H.R. 8261, the ‘Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act,’ because it will assure patients that they can access their care via telehealth beyond the end of the calendar year. We also appreciate the focus on adding reasonable policy changes to further support access to telehealth.”

“Rehabilitation therapy providers are only able to continue providing access to therapy services to their patients in many areas of the country because of telehealth,” said Cynthia Morton, Executive Vice President, ADVION. “Telehealth is a lifeline to supporting patient access to physical, occupational and speech therapy because of the labor shortage that we are experiencing now in long-term care. An extension of the telehealth authority is extremely important to the patients we treat.”

“The ACH Coalition applauds the five-year waiver extension contained in this legislation, which demonstrates an ongoing commitment to increasing access to care in the home through hospital at home programs,” said the Advanced Care at Home Coalition. “The five-year waiver extension included in H.R. 8261, the ‘Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act’, will provide the stability and predictability necessary for providers and plans to scale nascent programs to sustainable levels, while also allowing for increased provider and patient participation, enhanced data collection, continued spreading of best practices, and improved access to underserved populations.”

Background on the Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act:  

  • Preserves Medicare patients’ access to telehealth through 2026 and Medicare’s Hospital at Home (HaH) initiative through 2029.
  • Improves telehealth experiences, makes important program reforms, and instills new integrity measures.
  • Extends essential Medicare programs that sustain rural and low-volume hospitals through September 30, 2025.
  • Extends essential Medicare add-on payments for urban, rural, and super-rural areas to preserve access to crucial emergency ambulance services.

The full text of the bill can be found here. A one pager can be found here.

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