Sherrill, Hern Introduce Legislation to Expand Telehealth Access for Medicare Recipients

Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced the bipartisan Protect Telehealth Access Act today to build on telehealth’s proven success during the COVID-19 pandemic by codifying Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services. The Protect Telehealth Access Act removes the requirement that (1) an individual receiving telehealth services must be located in a rural area or health professional shortage area, and (2) an individual may only receive telehealth services at home in certain limited circumstances.

“We’ve seen the benefits of expanded telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of making sure access to care is available if patients have to stay at home,” said Rep. Sherrill. “That value won’t go away when the pandemic ends. I’m working with Representative Hern to ensure Medicare beneficiaries do not lose access to these important services.”

“Almost overnight, Americans became reliant on tele-services this spring,” said Rep. Hern. “For health services, tele-health provides a whole new range of care for rural communities and people who are unable to leave home. These services will be necessary long after coronavirus is neutralized, and it’s a bipartisan priority to ensure it will be available to those who need it. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Rep. Sherrill and show what can happen when we come together for bipartisan victories.”

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, CMS has issued an array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with flexibility to respond to the pandemic. These actions have, among other things, increased access to telehealth in Medicare to ensure patients have access to physicians and other clinicians while staying safe at home.

Before COVID-19, Medicare beneficiaries could only receive coverage for telehealth visits under specific or unique circumstances — for example, if a patient lived in a rural area far from a doctor’s office. However, federal policy changes during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed Medicare recipients to increase access to necessary health services. The use of telehealth services during this crisis has further exhibited the pivotal role technology can play in improving health equity -- for vulnerable populations this type of access to health care can be a lifeline.