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Carter, Blunt Rochester Introduce Legislation to Increase Access to Telehealth for Seniors

Representatives Earl L. "Buddy" Carter (R-Ga.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-De.) introduced legislation today to increase access to telehealth for seniors. 

The Telehealth Modernization Act permanently removes Medicare's geographic and originating site restrictions which require a patient to live in a rural area and be physically in a doctor's office or clinic to use telehealth services. Carter and Blunt Rochester’s legislation permanently ends these restrictions to allow patients to use telehealth services no matter where they are. 

"Telehealth has been a vital tool during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for vulnerable Medicare patients," said Carter. "As vaccines are administered and we become closer to combating this virus, one thing that should remain is the unprecedented access to the use of telehealth that was created during the pandemic. This legislation ensures that happens. This is commonsense legislation because increasing access to telehealth means increasing access to quality care for all patients."

“Throughout the COVID pandemic, one of my top priorities has been expanding access and availability of telehealth services for millions of Americans across the country,” said Blunt Rochester. “While we’ve made great strides in making those services more broadly available, we know that Congress can do more. That’s why I’m proud to be working with Rep. Carter to remove restrictions for seniors to be able to access these incredibly valuable services.”

“During COVID-19, telehealth has been critical in allowing physicians to provide care to patients, especially more vulnerable Medicare patients,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “Last year, Congress temporarily expanded access to Medicare-covered telehealth services by authorizing HHS to waive outdated statutory restrictions.  Telehealth has allowed patients to maintain access to their physicians, and early evidence has shown reasonable utilization and costs.  This bipartisan bill would build on the coverage gains made during COVID-19 and make this expansion permanent.  Importantly, the bill would allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive coverage of telehealth services regardless of where they are located after the pandemic ends. The AMA strongly endorses this priority legislation to bring Medicare telehealth coverage into the 21st century.” 

“The American people should feel heartened that both chambers of Congress are taking such a strong and united bipartisan stance in favor of telehealth, to ensure all individuals, no matter where they live, have permanent access to safe, effective, and quality care wherever and whenever needed,” 
said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO, the American Telemedicine Association. “We are grateful to Representatives Carter, Representative Blunt Rochester, and the many telehealth champions on both sides of the aisle, who are coming together to ensure telehealth becomes a valuable and important option in healthcare delivery.”

The Telehealth Modernization Act would ensure patients can access telehealth services anywhere by permanently removing Medicare’s “geographic and originating site” restrictions, which require that the patient live in a rural area and use telehealth at a doctor’s office or clinic. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act passed last spring ended these restrictions for the duration of the Public Health Emergency – allowing patients to use telehealth services no matter their location. This legislation guarantees that patients will be able to continue to use telehealth after the pandemic is over.