Senior Vice President of Public Policy for ATA and Executive Director of ATA Action, Kyle Zebley, provided the organization's primary objective by stating, "The ATA and ATA Action's top priority is to make permanent all of the Medicare telehealth flexibilities implemented during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), which are set to expire by year-end,"
The release provided insights into how Congress can create a comprehensive and permanent telehealth reform. Here are a few that stood out to us.
Make Telehealth Flexibilities Enacted During the PHE Permanent
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Emergency (PHE) provided numerous telehealth services to prevent the spread of the virus. To continue these flexibilities, the ATA suggests removing Section 1834(m) of the Social Security Act, which restricts the delivery of telehealth services to specific locations. In addition to eliminating these geographic site restrictions, the ATA wants to expand the amount of eligible Medicare providers. This would include care such as physical, speech-language, and occupational therapy.
Other recommendations made by the ATA include:
Guarantee the ongoing provision of telehealth services by approximately 1,400 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and 4,300 Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), ensuring they receive equitable compensation.
Provide audio-only coverage permanently.
Pass the Telemental Health Care Access Act (R. 3432), eliminating the mandated in-person requirement for telemental health services.
Affordability For All Patients
To ensure affordable telehealth services for the financially insured, the ATA suggests that Congress pass the Telehealth Expansion Act (H.R. 1843) to extend the exemption of telehealth services permanently. This would allow over 32 million patients nationwide with high-deductible plans to continue using these mobile services. Furthermore, the ATA believes the option of providing telehealth services for part-time or contracted workers is to either extend the flexibilities granted by the PHE for an additional three years or pass the Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act of 2023, which would provide telehealth services as an ultimate benefit.
Eliminate In-Person Requirements for Remote Prescription
In response to telehealth services, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enacted a regulatory solution for telemedicine by requiring patients to make in-person appointments to gain prescriptions for controlled substances. To remove this requirement, the ATA advocates that Congress support the Telehealth Response to E-Prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act, which would permanently eliminate any in-person requirements for the prescription of controlled substances.
While the TREATS Act marks substantial progress, it falls short of comprehensively tackling the more significant problem of access for vulnerable and underserved populations requiring controlled substances for various clinical conditions. This emphasizes Congress's need to continue urging the DEA to develop a comprehensive and feasible regulatory framework for virtual prescription.
ATA Reveal Wrapped-Up
While the future of telehealth remains undetermined, the ATA fights for the prominence of these crucial services. Whether it's providing patients with the right digital platform or securing their access to mobile solutions, the fight for telehealth services presses on.