Shaheen Calls For Permanent Expansion Of Telehealth Coverage In End Of Year Legislation

December 07, 2020

**Telehealth use among Medicare beneficiaries increased by nearly 13,000% in just over a month**

**Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to strengthen & expand telehealth services amid the COVID-19 pandemic**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a bipartisan, bicameral group of 49 lawmakers called for the expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent. Provisions from the Shaheen-supported CONNECT for Health Act that have allowed Medicare beneficiaries in all areas of the country to utilize telehealth services, as well as more types of health care providers to provide telehealth, were included in previous COVID-19 legislation but will expire following the pandemic unless Congress acts now to make those measures permanent. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) led the letter to congressional leaders.

“Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that patients can continue to receive the health care services that they need while minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping health care providers and patients healthy and safe,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “We continue to hear from our constituents and health care providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth. Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and health care providers during the pandemic, and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.”

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by nearly 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

The full text of the letter is available here.

During the pandemic, Shaheen has been a leader in strengthening and expanding access to telehealth in New Hampshire and across the country. Earlier this year, the Defense Health Agency announced that it would expand TRICARE coverage for telehealth services following Shaheen’s bipartisan efforts. Shaheen has previously called on VA Secretary Wilkie to strengthen access to telehealth for New Hampshire veterans and their families. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Senator Shaheen helped negotiate and is now law included $2.15 billion in funding to the VA to enhance its ability to provide telehealth services to veterans. In April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ heeded Shaheen’s bipartisan call and updated guidelines to bring Medicare reimbursement for telephone-based health services in line with Medicare reimbursement for video telehealth. In May, Shaheen introduced legislation to assist health care providers delivering telehealth services and ensure patients can continue to access health care from the safety of their homes. Shaheen also participated in bipartisan calls for a permanent expansion of telehealth services that Congress included in the CARES Act. The bipartisan legislation included a provision to expand access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in New Hampshire and across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.