Many of the changes to telehealth requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic on both the federal and state levels were intended to be temporary, as previously discussed here. Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress introduced the Telehealth Extension Act, which would, among other things, eliminate the requirement that patients live in a rural area in order to have telehealth services covered by Medicare.
The bill provides for other telehealth expansions, including the continuation of an expanded list of eligible providers, even after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends. The bill also includes provisions to safeguard against telehealth fraud, a topic recently discussed here, such as by imposing an in-person appointment requirement within six months prior to ordering high-cost durable medical equipment or major clinical laboratory tests.
As quickly as telehealth has expanded, a potential rapid drop-off in utilization (known as the “telehealth cliff”) looms in the absence of action from lawmakers to extend the regulatory changes that encouraged the expansion. The telehealth regulatory landscape driven by the pandemic must be closely monitored for changes to ensure compliance, as it is based largely on a patchwork of emergency waivers and rules that, while popular, are not yet permanent.
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