In June, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at least two of the most important temporary changes in federal policy made to ease telehealth access during the COVID-19 pandemic should be extended permanently.
"As dark as this pandemic event has been, it creates an opportunity to learn from and act upon these three months of intensive telehealth experiences, specifically what permanent changes need to be made in federal and state policies," he said, adding the virus effectively crammed 10 years' worth of telehealth experience into a few short months.
Alexander is advocating for the federal government to: 1) permanently extend policy changes that allowed physicians to be reimbursed for a telehealth appointment wherever the patient is located, including the patient's home; and 2) permanently extend the policy change that nearly doubled the number of telehealth services that could be reimbursed by Medicare. He said there were 29 other temporary federal policy changes that could also be considered for being made permanent.
Alexander said if even 15-20 percent of normal patient volumes transitioned to remote encounters, it would produce massive change in the healthcare system. "Our job should be to ensure that change is done with the goals of better outcomes and better patient experiences at a lower cost," he stated.