The Director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, signaled further support from the Trump Administration in continuing Medicare coverage of expanded telehealth services in a June 9 virtual event with STAT
“I can’t imagine going back,” Verma told attendees. “People recognize the value of this, so it seems like it would not be a good thing to force our beneficiaries to go back to in-person visits.” According to Verma, telemedicine visits increased from 12,000 per week pre-COVID-19 to more than 1 million per week since CMS expanded Medicare flexibilities. Verma acknowledged that Congress will need to play a role in permanently expanding some areas that CMS cannot do by rule while also noting that CMS is evaluating areas it can expand on its own.
Verma is not the first HHS official to remark on the Trump Administration’s desire to continue telehealth flexibility. In prepared remarks
in late April, HHS Deputy Secretary Hargan lauded the administration’s efforts to expand telehealth and followed up during a question and answer comment period that the Trump Administration was “all in” on telehealth and exploring ways to make as many flexibilities permanent as made sense.
WHA has made expanding telehealth under Medicare
a key advocacy priority even before COVID-19. In a letter to Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation
last November, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding provided a number of examples of how expanding telehealth coverage under Medicare could improve care. For example, Medicare’s pre-COVID rules required patients to physically travel back to the hospital or a clinic for post-discharge follow-up care. “Imagine if Medicare could cover these follow-up home care services via telehealth,” Borgerding said. “It would actually save Medicare dollars by allowing providers to deliver this care in a more cost-effective setting, and in a more convenient manner for patients.”
In a number of virtual events with lawmakers and weekly calls with the Wisconsin congressional delegation’s health care staff, WHA and its members have continued to advocate for telehealth, noting that it has been a lifeline for patients and providers during COVID-19 and reiterating that patients do not want to lose the ability to utilize telehealth after current emergency declarations end.
The WHA Telemedicine Work Group, which was responsible for the recommendations that resulted in comprehensive Medicaid telehealth reforms culminating in Wisconsin Act 56
will be meeting again on Monday, June 22. The group will discuss progress made under telehealth to help inform policymakers on the need to extend telehealth flexibilities, as well as determine what more needs to be done to further expand patient access to telehealth.
For more information, contact WHA Director of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter
, or VP of Policy Development Laura Rose