Sherrill, Curtis, Welch, and Spanberger Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Assess Impact of COVID-19 Telehealth Policies

July 24, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC –– Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), John Curtis (R-UT), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to study the impacts of telehealth during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The legislation requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assess key health care metrics, including utilization rates and hospital readmission rates, for patients who received their health care through expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate companion bill is led by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV).

“Residents and providers across New Jersey have benefited from the increased access to telehealth services during the pandemic,” said Rep. Sherrill. “As we work to make telehealth provisions permanent, we need data that sheds light on patients’ best interests, ways to lower the cost of care, and the role of telehealth during the pandemic. This is forward-looking legislation that will have an important long-term impact on our healthcare system.”

“Telehealth is undoubtedly the future of health care, especially for the rural communities that I am privileged to represent,” said Rep. Curtis. “Ultimately, Congress’ objective should be to make many – if not at all – of these regulatory changes permanent. Our bill is a significant step in that direction because it will ensure we are keeping patients’ health and reducing the costs of care through value-based medicine as our top priorities as we consider expanding telehealth services throughout the country.”

“This unprecedented pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential,” said Rep. Welch. “I have no doubt that this study will confirm what rural and underserved patients across the country already know: these emergency telehealth provisions should be continued. This is a commonsense step to make sure our policies keep pace with our technology.

“In Central Virginia, we’ve seen firsthand how telemedicine is playing a critical role in keeping seniors, families, and veterans connected to their healthcare providers during the COVID-19 crisis. Without this lifeline, thousands of Central Virginians could be left without access to routine appointments and lifesaving care,” said Rep. Spanberger. “This bipartisan bill is a step toward understanding how this cutting-edge technology can be used to further expand affordable, reliable healthcare access as the pandemic continues. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their leadership on this issue, and through expanded access to telehealth, we can reduce costs, improve health outcomes, and build a safer and healthier Commonwealth and country.”

Regulatory action taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in the US gave millions of Americans access to vital health care services with the touch of a button. The 1135 Blanket Waivers issued by CMS in March 2020 permit health care providers to treat patients virtually – either by phone (audio-only) or through teleconferencing – and across state lines, which is a practice that regulators previously prohibited.

These increased flexibilities resulted in a 50% increase in telehealth visits among public payers in March alone and more than an 8,000% increase in telehealth visits to date as a result of similar actions taken by commercial insurers. The bipartisan legislation introduced today will help policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of these changes, specifically if they kept patients healthier and happier, providers more satisfied, and reduced the overall costs of care.

Text of the bill available here.