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Uptick in Federal Initiatives that Seek to Expand Telehealth

posted: August 3, 2020

Legislation is being introduced to permanently implement the changes previously authorized by the Congress and agencies to increase access to telehealth services during the pandemic. Several lawmakers are supporting the expansion of telehealth services on a permanent basis. Data has shown that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services has increased by 11,718 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic. Health care providers and patients have benefited from both federal and state policies implemented during the public health emergency and telehealth and telemedicine services are expected to continue to be an effective means of providing health care delivery beyond the Covid-19 public health emergency (PHE).

In response, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has issued a Statement targeted to lawmakers and insurers on extending current telehealth coverage and reimbursement policies.  The ACR expressed support for continued parity of reimbursement for in-office visits, audio-visual visits and audio-only visits, both by CMS and by commercial payers after the declared PHE has ended. Placing an emphasis on preserving the provider-patient relationship, the ACR explained how patient care should include both in-person and telemedicine services in accordance with the American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics; and that standards and scope of care provided remotely via telemedicine services should be consistent with related in-person services. The ACR also stressed the importance of patients having a choice of providers for telemedicine services.