June 30, 2021
The Biden administration’s top health policy official reiterated his support for expanded telemedicine access after the COVID-19 national emergency expires, as Congress considers a slate of bills that would permanently nix regulatory barriers to virtual care, according to reporting by Rebecca Pifer in Healthcare Dive.
“We are absolutely supportive of efforts to give us the authority to utilize telehealth in greater ways,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said at a virtual event on digital health hosted by The Washington Post.
Becerra also stressed that, though affordable telemedicine should be available to all, HHS would be doubling down in making sure there’s accountability for quality of care. “We’re going to be doing a lot of bird-dogging, a lot of oversight,” he said.
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“Telemedicine use skyrocketed in the early months of COVID-19 as Washington rolled back restrictions to digitally delivered care, allowing patients, kept out of doctor’s offices by state restrictions and fears of virus transmission, to turn to virtual care in droves. As COVID-19 cases waned amid increased vaccination, so too have telehealth visits declined. Still, they remain significantly elevated compared to pre-COVID-19 levels,” Pifer writes. “Congress is currently deliberating what expanded virtual care flexibilities should remain after the COVID-19 national emergency. Bipartisan lawmakers have expressed support for nixing originating site and geographic requirements to coverage that made it difficult to use telemedicine widely and allowing traditional Medicare to reimburse broadly for the service.”