Washington, DC––Today, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, spoke about his telehealth bill, the “COVID-19 Emergency Telehealth Impact Reporting Act” during the House E&C hearing about the future of telehealth care. The recently reintroduced, bipartisan legislation will study the impacts of telehealth during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). The legislation requires the US Department of Health and Human Services to assess key health care metrics, including utilization rates and hospital readmission rates, for patients who received their health care through expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Telehealth is undoubtedly the future of health care, especially for the rural communities that I am privileged to represent,” said Curtis. “Ultimately, Congress’ objective should be to make many – if not at all – of these regulatory changes permanent. Our bill is a significant step in that direction because it will ensure we are keeping patients’ health and reducing the costs of care through value-based medicine as our top priorities as we consider expanding telehealth services throughout the country.”

Background

Regulatory action taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in the US gave millions of Americans access to vital health care services with the touch of a button. The 1135 Blanket Waivers issued by CMS in March 2020 permit health care providers to treat patients virtually – either by phone (audio-only) or through teleconferencing – and across state lines, which is a practice that regulators previously prohibited. 

These increased flexibilities resulted in over 24 million (one-third) of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services between March 2020 and October 2020. The bipartisan legislation introduced today will help policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of these changes, specifically if they kept patients healthier and happier, providers more satisfied, and reduced the overall costs of care. 

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