AMA backs Senate bill that would remove Medicare’s geographic, site restrictions on telehealth 

The American Medical Association highlighted its support on Sept. 18 of the Senate’s “Telehealth Modernization Act of 2020,” which would permanently cut many of the regulatory restrictions that were provisionally lifted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three notes:

1. The bill would permanently eliminate Medicare’s previous telehealth and geographic originating site restrictions, which prevented Medicare physicians from offering most telehealth services outside of rural areas, according to the report.

2. The bill would also permit the HHS secretary to grant patients access to telehealth from physical therapists, speech pathologists and other healthcare professionals as well as allow Medicare hospice and home dialysis patients to participate in a telehealth visit without having an initial in-person visit.

3. Under the bill, the HHS secretary would also have the authority to give Medicare flexibility in paying for more telehealth services. At 135 services covered, Medicare more than doubled its telehealth coverage from pre-pandemic and now covers emergency department visits and physical, occupational and speech therapy services.

“The success of telehealth technology adoption during the COVID-19 public health emergency has made it abundantly clear that this technology should be available to all Medicare patients regardless of where they live or how they access telehealth services,” AMA Executive Vice President James Madara, MD, wrote in a Sept. 2 letter to the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee.

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