38 Senators Seek HHS-CMS Plan on Permanent Changes to Medicare Telehealth Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) has joined Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and others calling on federal health agencies to provide Congress with a written plan and timeline about any potential changes to Medicare rules governing telehealth.

In all, 38 Senators signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prompted by constituent concerns about the possible rollback of temporary Medicare telehealth rules implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate your recognition that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more patients and providers see the value of telehealth.  We believe telehealth is an important tool that enhances patient care and can provide efficiency in health care delivery,” the Senators wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  “While telehealth may not be able to replace all in-person care, we believe it should continue to be an option to meet individual care needs.”

The letter also encouraged “the Administration to consider how permanent changes to telehealth policy can be part of broader movement, including a shift toward value-based care.  We look forward to your response and urge you to continue working with Congress to expand access to telehealth during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and after we put the pandemic behind us.”

Through coronavirus relief legislation, Congress provided HHS with authority to waive telehealth requirements for the length of the COVID-19 public health crisis, making it possible for providers to help patients without exposing themselves or patients to the risk of COVID-19.  Additionally, telehealth is providing a source of financial stability to providers affected by the suspension or delay of non-emergency procedures.

The telehealth expertise of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), a national leader in this service for more than a decade, has been expanded and utilized throughout Mississippi during the coronavirus national health emergency.  UMMC is a recognized National Telehealth Center of Excellence. 

A copy of the Senators’ letter is available here