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Collins, King Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Telehealth Amid COVID-19

The Telehealth Modernization Act codifies crucial flexibilities for telehealth coverage to increase access to high-quality health care services, particularly for seniors

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) co-sponsored the Telehealth Modernization Act, bipartisan legislation that would update coverage restrictions that have long prevented the nation’s roughly 61 million Medicare beneficiaries from accessing life-saving telehealth services.


“Telehealth services have been a lifeline to patients and providers during the pandemic, ensuring that individuals can continue to receive quality health care from the safety and convenience of their own homes,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “This bipartisan bill would expand telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, ensuring that seniors in Maine and across the country retain access to remote home health services during the COVID-19 emergency and future public health emergencies.”


While these Medicare access gaps predated the pandemic, the spread of COVID-19 highlighted the urgency of updating telehealth coverage rules, prompting Congress to provide authority for temporary emergency waivers designed to ensure safe access to care for seniors and other vulnerable populations. As the pandemic raged, Medicare beneficiaries turned to telehealth services to minimize exposure risk and receive medically necessary care in safe and accessible settings. In April 2020, more than two-fifths (43.5%) of Medicare FFS primary care visits were provided through telehealth, and from mid-March through early July of that year, more than 10.1 million beneficiaries accessed telehealth services. 


Without further congressional action, however, these emergency flexibilities will expire at the end of the public health emergency, creating chaos for tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries, including many who have come to rely on telehealth for critically needed care. Our nation’s seniors deserve better. The Telehealth Modernization Act would help to support their needs through necessary updates to coverage policies.


The Telehealth Modernization Act makes two permanent changes:


  • Ensures that patients can access telehealth anywhere by permanently removing Medicare’s so-called "geographic and originating site" restrictions, which required both that the patient live in a rural area and use telehealth at a doctor’s office or certain other clinical sites.


  • Protects access to telehealth for patients in rural areas.


The bill also gives the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services new authority to:


  • Help patients continue to access telehealth from physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and other health care providers.


  • Help give Medicare recipients many more telehealth services.


  • Help Medicare hospice and home dialysis patients use telehealth to keep receiving necessary care.


The legislation was introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and was also co-sponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), and Todd Young (R-IN).


The list of supporting organizations can be found here.