WASHINGTON, DC, DECEMBER 21, 2023 – The American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) annual EDGE Policy Conference last week attracted over a dozen bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leaders, who urged telehealth advocates to “keep going” and vowed to provide the “blocking and tackling” needed to ensure victory in next year’s Telehealth Policy Super Bowl.
“In the next twelve months, nearly all of the temporary flexibilities established during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) are set to expire. We cannot allow the clock to run out on the future of our healthcare system, the health and wellbeing of patients and the preservation of our overburdened clinician workforce,” said Kyle Zebley, the ATA’s Senior Vice President, Public Policy, and Executive Director, ATA Action. “The work we have collectively done over the past several years to establish telehealth as an effective modality of care delivery will put us in excellent position to get telehealth over the finish line in 2024.”
Over the past year, the ATA and ATA Action, along with key stakeholders in the telehealth industry, have successfully advanced federal policy priorities that were previously stalled, and gained momentum in areas that previously lacked substantial support:
- With support from the ATA, Congress continued to show its support for removal of in-person requirements and other pandemic flexibilities by extending most major federal flexibilities through the end of 2024. CMS took full advantage of the leeway granted by Congress and fully extended flexibilities in the Medicare CY2024 Physician Fee Schedule and other guidances.
- The ATA’s top priority legislation got reintroduced and gained momentum, including the CONNECT for Health Act, the Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act of 2023, the Telehealth Expansion Act and the Telemental Health Care Access Act.
- The ATA and ATA Action have been deeply involved in shaping the DEA’s proposed rules on remote prescribing of controlled substances, including hosting the DEA at its annual meeting in March to hear directly from its members and other telehealth stakeholders about concerns with the initial proposed rules. Shortly thereafter, the DEA issued a temporary rule extending until the end of 2024 the waiver of the in-person requirement for the remote prescribing of controlled substances, with the intention of writing new rules early next year.
- Key policymakers and members of the Administration have gone on record supporting access to telehealth beyond 2024, including S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Deputy Assistant Administrator Matt Strait. The ATA was also selected to review and provide feedback on the annual telehealth MedPAC report before it was made public.
- In September, ATA Action hosted its first Hill Day during Telehealth Awareness Week, visiting more than 30 Congressional offices to discuss top policy priorities. The following month, ATA Action hosted an in-person Congressional Caucus Briefing, “DEA Rulemaking on Telehealth: What Congress Needs to Know” with a significant number of Congressional staffers in attendance.
ATA Action has also been actively analyzing and tracking hundreds of state-level telehealth bills. Through testimony and coalition building, ATA Action has ensured 35 positive telehealth bills and regulations take effect while defeating multiple bills and rules that would have restricted access to telehealth. These state policy victories are paving the way for expanded access to telehealth services and removed barriers that hindered the adoption of virtual care:
- Florida Removes “Audio-Only” Prohibition allowing greater flexibility and inclusivity in telehealth services.
- Idaho Passes Asynchronous Telehealth Bill permitting providers to establish relationships with telehealth asynchronously and introducing exemptions to licensure requirements.
- Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia Remove In-State Requirements for Medicaid Providers exempting licensed telehealth providers from having to maintain an address or operate a physical in-state location to participate in Medicaid.
- Maryland Passes Telehealth Provisions, extending use of audio-only telehealth through June 2025.
- New York State Department of Health posted unofficial guidance suggesting requirement of an in-person exam in order for a telehealth provider to prescribe controlled substances. Following significant efforts by ATA Action and several allied organizations, the Department withdrew their problematic guidance.
- Ohio Approves Telehealth Rules preventing telehealth providers from facing undue burdens and higher standards of care.
- Texas Expands Medicaid Telehealth Services enabling home telemonitoring services under Medicaid. ATA Action also worked successfully with legislators, members, and local trade associations to defeat multiple bills that would have limited telehealth prescribing, advertising, practitioner services, and teledentistry.
- Washington Extends Telehealth Provisions extending the time frame in which real-time telemedicine using both audio and video technology may be used to establish a relationship for the purpose of providing audio-only telemedicine for certain health care services.
“Our efforts and achievements at both the state and federal levels demonstrate our unwavering commitment to advancing critical telehealth policies and ensuring equitable access to virtual care,” added Zebley. “With an extensive track record of supporting positive telehealth legislation, defeating restrictive measures, and collaborating with key stakeholders, we will continue to pave the way for permanent access to telehealth services and appropriate reimbursement for virtual care.”
About ATA Action
ATA Action recognizes that telehealth and virtual care have the potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by improving patient outcomes, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of care, addressing health disparities, and reducing costs. ATA Action is a registered 501c6 entity and an affiliated trade organization of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).
About the ATA
As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading healthcare delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models.
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