In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS issued several emergency waivers that, among other things, broaden the ability for Medicare beneficiaries to to receive coverage for virtual care visits. These emergency waivers are set to expire at the end of the public health emergency, currently April 16, 2022, unless the HHS Secretary renews the determination of public health emergency for an additional 90 days. The Telehealth Modernization Act (S.368 / HR.1332), introduced in Congress in February 2021, aims to solidify access and coverage of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries and make many of the emergency waivers permanent.
This bill largely seeks to eliminate Medicare’s geographic and originating-site restrictions that limit patient’s access by requiring patients to be physically present at specified clinics in order to receive virtual healthcare services. It would also give the HHS secretary the ability to allow for Medicare coverage of virtual physical therapy, speech language pathology, and additional specialty healthcare services. Due to the unexpected nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services have greatly increased since 2020, and this bill could potentially ease access of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas.