BPC Action Applauds Congressional Efforts to Expand Access to Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 in Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic expansion of access to telehealth. The benefits of using telehealth during a pandemic are clear and considerable. It limits exposure to the virus for both patients and health care providers and helps address workforce shortages in rural and hard-hit communities. Yet widespread access to telehealth should not be limited to times of crisis.

In April, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Rural Health Task Force recommended a significant, permanent expansion of telehealth services and substantial investments in broadband infrastructure. That is why BPC Action applauds the members of Congress who are working on legislative proposals to maintain telehealth services after the public health emergency ends including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bill Johnson (R-OH), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Doris Matsui (R-CA).

As Congress continues this critical work, BPC Action urges members to:

  • Permanently extend the regulatory and payment changes that have enabled the expansion of telehealth during the public health emergency. These changes include the following BPC recommendations:
    • Remove geographic restrictions for telehealth
    • Allow the patient’s home to serve as the originating site for telehealth visits
    • Allow both RHCs and FQHCs to serve as distant sites for telehealth services
    • Allow patients to use audio-only telephones for telehealth services
    • Expand asynchronous services to include written information
    • Give providers flexibilities around HIPAA when acting in good faith on live-video visits
  • Significantly invest in broadband infrastructure and continue to prioritize connecting rural areas with broadband through anchor institutions and direct-to-home services.
  • Ensure effective implementation of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act.
  • Allow providers to use telehealth services across state lines to help meet the health care needs of vulnerable populations, especially those in rural communities.
  • Direct the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, to prioritize rural-specific training curricula for the health IT workforce.