Rep. Williams Introduces Bill to Expand Telehealth Coverage and Protect Rural Communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Roger Williams (R-TX-25) today introduced the Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act to extend telehealth provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act through December 31, 2025. Currently, telehealth waivers and flexibilities are extended through December 31, 2021 under the CARES Act. The legislation would also eliminate site restrictions for telehealth so that patients can receive care in their homes and providers will be reimbursed at payment rates equal to those of face to face visits.
“Telehealth flexibilities under the CARES Act have tremendously helped both patients and providers during COVID-19, and it is vital that we extend these waivers so Texans continue having access to essential care,” said Congressman Williams. “Telehealth technology is crucial now more than ever as medical professionals have largely had to adapt to screening and appointments via technology to care for their patients when face to face visits are too high of a risk. As we look toward further innovation and the future of health care delivery, I’m proud to introduce the Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act to improve the cost-effective delivery of these services and to allow our rural communities to retain critical access to lifesaving care.”
The bill also requires the GAO to submit a report to Congress at the end of years three and five on the success and limitations of telehealth, specifically detailing savings or costs associated with the extensions for rural areas. The following sections in the CARES Act would be extended under the Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act:
- Section 3703: Expanding Medicare Telehealth Flexibilities
- Section 3704: Allowing Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics
- Section 3701: Health Savings Accounts for Telehealth Services
- Section 3705: Expanding Medicare Telehealth for Home Dialysis Patients
- Section 3706: Allowing for the Use of Telehealth during the Hospice Care Recertification Process in Medicare
- Section 3707: Encouraging the Use of Telecommunications Systems for Home Health Services in Medicare
Quotes of support from Texas-based health systems and national health associations:
Coryell Health Hospital in Gatesville
“Representative Williams’ bill will open the door even wider for the residents of Gatesville and surrounding rural communities to more easily access health care. When patients, especially elderly patients, don’t have to always travel to the doctor’s office and can see a provider from the comfort of their own home with telemedicine via phone or video screen, rural health care is advanced light years,” said David Byrom, CEO of Coryell Health Hospital.
Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH)
“Telemedicine has proven itself as a rare bright spot during the COVID-19 crisis allowing both rural and urban residents to access physicians and other providers without traveling. This is especially critical for elderly Medicare patients. We commend Representative Williams for leading the initiative to extend this important tool for rural health care,” said John Henderson, CEO and President of TORCH.
National Rural Health Association (NRHA)
“NRHA applauds Representative Williams for introducing the Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act. The continuation of the important CARES Act telehealth provisions will be vital to rural health care as we look toward the future of health care delivery. In particular, we commend this bill for allowing for the continuation of telehealth services at Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers and enabling them to be reimbursed properly, which will greatly increase access to care,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of NRHA.
National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC)
“If Congress does not act before the end of the public health emergency, rural providers will lose their ability to offer telehealth services to their patients. This legislation would allow rural health clinics to continue to provide these high value telehealth services to patients after the pandemic while rectifying reimbursement and billing issues for safety-net providers,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs at NARHC.
To view bill text, please click here.
Congressman Roger Williams represents the 25th Congressional District of Texas and serves as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services.