The following bills have been introduced at the federal level.
US House Bill 4480:Telehealth Coverage and Payment Parity Act
After the introduction, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. If enacted, the bill will require group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual coverage to cover telehealth services if the same services would be covered for in-person care.
US House Bill 4437: Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth Act of 2021 or the HEALTH Act of 2021
The bill is currently under review in the House Ways and Means Committee. If passed, it would require permanent cost-related payments for telehealth services furnished by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health Clinics under the Medicare program. This would permanently remove the originating site and location requirements for distant site telehealth services furnished at either of these centers and clinics.
US Senate Bill 2565: Expanding Access to Palliative Care Act
Currently located in the Senate Finance Committee, this bill seeks to create a community-based palliative care and care coordination model for high-risk beneficiaries—including the approved utilization of telehealth. The model aims to improve patient care experience and outcomes by reducing unnecessary or unwanted emergency department visits and hospitalizations. The model would be implemented for five years.
As many states have ended their public health emergencies, state medical boards have been busy adopting emergency provisions to extend telehealth services. This is an area worth keeping an eye on as some states are beginning to see opposition at the board level, which could result in restrictions on telehealth use and the modalities deemed appropriate as a standard of care—specifically, Ohio is one to watch. This is where practitioner advocacy is imperative to voice support for telehealth-friendly regulations.
Let’s take a look at some progress made in other states this month.
Emergency Addendum to Arkansas Rural Connect Coronavirus Rule – Enacted
This rule has been enacted to allow funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to be distributed immediately and accelerate the deployment of broadband infrastructure in rural Arkansas. Funds must be used in rural Arkansas.
Louisiana Emergency Order – Emergency Adoption 8.12.21
Part XXI. Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO)
The Louisiana Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, as authorized by R.S. 51:2370.1-2370.16, provides grants to private providers of broadband services to facilitate the deployment of broadband service to unserved areas of the state. The GUMBO grant program funds eligible projects in economically distressed parishes throughout the state through a competitive grant application process.
Senate Bill 477a 2021 Enacted
This act establishes the Maine Connectivity authority. State connectivity goals are to make high-speed connectivity universally available, affordable, reliable, competitive, and sustainable in the State for all residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions.
Board of Medicine, Part 2635 Chapter 5: Practice of Telemedicine – Temporary Order Issued
Physician (allopathic or osteopathic) standards updated under temporary order due to pending expiration of the state Public Health Emergency. The temporary order includes the revised definition of telehealth and the allowance of store-and-forward (asynchronous) technology and remote monitoring technologies.
- “Store-and-Forward Transfer Technology” is defined as “technology which facilitates the gathering of data from the patient, via secure email or messaging service, which is then used for formulation of a diagnosis and treatment plan, also known as ‘asynchronous communication.”
House Bill 7001c Budget Bill Amendment – Enacted
This bill includes funding to expand broadband expansion, including the Line Extension Customer Assistance Program to extend existing broadband networks to low to moderate-income residents.
Why these bills matter for telehealth:
There is a flurry of activity surrounding expanding affordable broadband service to rural and underserved communities. Broadband has become a necessity due to its impact on healthcare, education, public safety, workforce development, transportation, economic development, and more. While the wide-reaching expansion of broadband is a positive step in facilitating synchronous telehealth, this is a long-term project and emphasizes the critical role that asynchronous telehealth (better yet, the Zipnosis platform) plays in keeping people safe and healthy today and into the future.
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