Spanberger Co-Leads Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Study Financial & Health Impacts of COVID-19 Telehealth Policies

Jul 29, 2020
Healthcare
Press

Last Week, the Congresswoman Introduced Additional Legislation to Provide an Additional $200 Million for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, Which Ran Out of Funding Earlier this Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger co-led the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to study the impacts of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the bipartisan bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assess key healthcare metrics, including utilization rates and hospital readmission rates, for patients who’ve received their healthcare delivery through expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spanberger is co-leading the legislation alongside U.S. Representatives John Curtis (R-UT-03), Peter Welch (D-VT-AL), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11). A companion bill is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV).

“In Central Virginia, we’ve seen firsthand how telemedicine is playing a critical role in keeping seniors, families, and veterans connected to their healthcare providers during the COVID-19 crisis. Without this lifeline, thousands of Central Virginians could be left without access to routine appointments and lifesaving care,” said Spanberger. “This bipartisan bill is a step toward understanding how this cutting-edge technology can be used to further expand affordable, reliable healthcare access as the pandemic continues. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their leadership on this issue, and through expanded access to telehealth, we can reduce costs, improve health outcomes, and build a safer and healthier Commonwealth and country.”

“Telehealth is undoubtedly the future of health care, especially for the rural communities that I am privileged to represent,” said Curtis. “Ultimately, Congress’ objective should be to make many – if not at all – of these regulatory changes permanent. Our bill is a significant step in that direction because it will ensure we are keeping patients’ health and reducing the costs of care through value-based medicine as our top priorities as we consider expanding telehealth services throughout the country.”

“This unprecedented pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential,” said Welch. “I have no doubt that this study will confirm what rural and underserved patients across the country already know: these emergency telehealth provisions should be continued. This is a commonsense step to make sure our policies keep pace with our technology.”

“Residents and providers across New Jersey have benefited from the increased access to telehealth services during the pandemic,” said Sherrill. “As we work to make telehealth provisions permanent, we need data that sheds light on patients’ best interests, ways to lower the cost of care, and the role of telehealth during the pandemic. This is forward-looking legislation that will have an important long-term impact on our healthcare system.”

Regulatory action taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States gave millions of Americans access to vital healthcare services with the touch of a button. The 1135 Blanket Waivers issued by CMS in March 2020 permit healthcare providers to treat patients virtually — either by phone (audio-only) or through teleconferencing — and across state lines, which was previously prohibited.

These increased flexibilities resulted in a 50 percent increase in telehealth visits among public payers in March alone and more than an 8,000 percent increase in telehealth visits to date as a result of similar actions taken by commercial insurers. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Spanberger, Curtis, Welch, and Sherrill would help policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of these changes — specifically, whether patients are healthier and happier, providers more are satisfied, and overall costs of care are reduced.

BACKGROUND

This bipartisan legislation builds on Spanberger’s work to maintain and expand access to telemedicine in Central Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Spanberger led the introduction of bipartisan legislation to maintain critical telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide new funding to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Her COVID-19 Telehealth Program Extension Act has received strong support from Virginia healthcare providers and community organizations.

And earlier last week, Spanberger led a 41-Member, bipartisan effort calling on the FCC to provide greater certainty and support to healthcare providers standing up telehealth services through the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

In April 2020, Spanberger also cosponsored the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, which would eliminate barriers to Medicare beneficiaries’ access to telehealth. Additionally, the legislation would allow appropriate mental health and emergency care services to be delivered through telehealth.

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