CONNECT for Health Care Act 2021 S. 1512/ H.R. 2903
The COVID-19 PHE has demonstrated the value of increased access to telehealth services, especially those that are delivered in the home setting. Congress needs to prioritize the inclusion of expanded Medicare telehealth services as part of a legislative package this year.
In response to the pandemic, federal policymakers instituted a number of legislative and regulatory flexibilities that have facilitated greater access to telehealth services. Included amongst these changes was waiving the geographic restrictions so that Medicare beneficiaries in all areas of the country could receive virtual services, and removing the originating site restrictions so that beneficiaries could connect with providers from the comfort and safety of their own home.
Of particular importance to the home-based care community, hospice providers have benefited from the flexibility to use telehealth for the duration of the PHE to conduct the face-to-face (F2F) encounter prior to recertification of eligibility for hospice care. This allowance has helped limit the spread of the virus and addressed concerns around exposure risk that in-home visits may pose to these vulnerable patients and their caregivers. Providing virtual F2F services has worked efficiently and effectively during the pandemic for patients, families, and hospice providers.
Congress should make these changes permanent!
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 (S.1512/H.R. 2903) is a bipartisan bill with strong congressional and stakeholder support that would permanently expand the above flexibilities, as well as others. It would give the HHS Secretary the authority to add new services to those allowed to be delivered via telehealth as evidence emerges to support their effectiveness and feasibility. This transformative bill would support home-based care providers’ ability to access more people in their care setting of choice – their own homes.
It is critical that Congress not let these helpful telehealth policies expire when the PHE ends – they have proven too valuable, and going back to their pre-pandemic status quo would be a loss to patients, families, providers, and the health care system.