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June 17, 2021

Telehealth Legislation Introduced by Bipartisan Group of Senators

The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act, aimed at making telehealth flexibilities under Medicare permanent, was introduced this week by a bipartisan group of Senators.  The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), contains several provisions that have garnered significant support over the past year, including: 1) permanently waiving the geographic restriction allowing Medicare patients to be treated from their homes; 2) permanently allowing rural health clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers to serve as distance sites for providing telehealth services; 3) lifting the restrictions on “store and forward” technologies for telehealth; 4) allowing Critical Access Hospitals to directly bill for telehealth services; and 5) allowing payment parity for audio-only health services for clinically appropriate appointments. This bill comes at the same time many telehealth advocates are urging Congress to take action to maintain telehealth access after the end of the public health emergency, and as  many states are passing legislation to maintain improved access to telehealth.