Medicare Telehealth Reform Bill Introduced in Senate


This week, Senators Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Young (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan bill titled the Telehealth Extension and Evaluation Act. If enacted, would ensure predictable patient access to many telehealth services following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency that would benefit AHCA/NCAL member residents. However, of concern is the bill as submitted does not protect access to therapy telehealth services. 

Specifically, the legislation would establish a 2-year extension many of the widely supported telehealth services Congress enacted during the pandemic, while ensuring a thorough evaluation of these services prior to future permanent action by Congress. Some of the provisions would extend access to appropriate and necessary physician and other telehealth services to all Medicare beneficiaries including residents of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living residences, and residences for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.   

However, AHCA/NCAL is concerned that a proposed requirement that all claims containing telehealth services must contain a “physician or practitioner” national provide identifier (NPI) code would prevent beneficiaries from accessing physical and occupational therapy as well as speech-language pathology telehealth services under Medicare Part B furnished by SNFs and other facility-based outpatient therapy providers. 

In a press release, Senator Masto stated “We’re still feeling the impacts of coronavirus, especially in older and more vulnerable populations, which is why these telehealth services must be extended” while Senator young emphasized “As Congress evaluates which changes to make permanent, many of these flexibilities are set to expire. We should act now to ensure seniors continue to benefit from these important remote health care services.” 

While this legislation contains some provisions consistent with positions recently advocated for by AHCA/NCAL and 335 other organizations in a letter to Congressional leadership, AHCA/NCAL will continue to advocate for revisions that would permit SNFs and other therapy providers to also be able to provide outpatient therapy services via telehealth as appropriate through the 2-year extension and evaluation period envisioned in this bill.