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W&M advances two-year telehealth extension

May 8, 2024
Illustration of a physician's hand holding a stethoscope coming out of a laptop screen.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The House Ways and Means Committee today unanimously advanced a two-year extension of pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities, teeing up what could be a prominent piece of a year-end health care package.

Why it matters: While many providers and lawmakers have argued for a permanent extension, the cost makes that unrealistic. The CBO projected a previous temporary extension would cost more than $2 billion.

Driving the news: The telehealth bill would extend a set of Medicare virtual care flexibilities that are due to expire at the end of this year through 2026. They include:

  • Waiving geographic and originating site restrictions and a requirement that Medicare beneficiaries need to have an in-person visit before accessing virtual behavioral health care services.
  • Extending flexibilities for rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers, and expanding the practitioners eligible to conduct telehealth services.
  • The package also would extend the federal hospital-at-home program for five years (more on that below), along with extending programs for certain low-volume and Medicare-dependent hospitals.
  • The bill would impose transparency and compensation requirements on PBMs to cover the cost of the extension, along with Medicare clinical laboratory testing changes.

Ways and Means was also on track today to advance several rural health-related bills.

  • One measure would revise the fee schedule for ambulances so they would be paid the critical-access hospital rate for serving more outlying facilities.
  • Other Republican-led bills would provide grants to rural hospitals for a stabilization pilot program, distribute graduate medical education residency positions to rural areas and make it easier for facilities to be given a rural emergency hospital designation.

What's next: Expect the House Energy and Commerce Committee to mark-up telehealth legislation next.

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