What They Are Saying: House Lawmakers Add to Bipartisan Momentum to Permanently Safeguard Access to Virtual Care

Apr 10, 2024

Members of Congress Highlight Urgency for Action to Avert a Potential Telehealth Cliff for Millions of Patients During Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing

In case you missed it, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health conducted a hearing today on “Legislative Proposals to Support Patient Access to Telehealth Service.” Throughout the hearing, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle repeatedly stressed the urgency and importance of safeguarding access to telehealth.

Read some of what lawmakers had to say during the hearing:

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5): “At the end of last Congress, we worked together to make a bipartisan investment to continue the telehealth flexibilities patients benefited from during the pandemic. But those flexibilities are now set to expire at the end of the year. We want to make sure patients remain in control of their doctor visit decisions and it is the patient deciding whether or not to utilize telehealth services… we can’t afford to go backwards and lose the progress we’ve made in expanding access to care… We must maintain our commitment to our nation’s seniors to provide a top-notch level of care.”

Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6): “Telehealth has many tangible benefits and research has shown that telehealth has clinical benefits for patients. … it can also provide critical services to hard-to-reach populations and help underserved communities access health care providers.”

Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2): “The looming deadline gives us a chance to examine long-term telehealth solutions that can drive innovation and health care through greater delivery. I believe telehealth can expand access to both primary care and other specialty providers, improve the health and well-being of patients and eventually drive significant cost savings across our health care system…Starting today, I think this committee can work together to move legislation making senior sure seniors have access to telehealth when they want it.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA-16): “Telehealth is, I think one of the few bright spots that emerged from the pandemic. During the public health emergency, HHS waived many outdated rules and payment policies surrounding telehealth coverage in traditional Medicare and these changes really ensured the continuity of care for patients who obviously, like the rest of us needed to stay home and out of crowded care settings, like doctor’s offices or hospitals…. Telehealth has been, I think, a Godsend to the disabled community as well. And we need to make sure that that is protected because they obviously use services on a more frequent basis…This is not a partisan issue. It (telehealth) remains a very important tool across health care for all the obvious reasons, and what the chairman of the committee expressed. There’s an urgent need to extend these flexibilities because it’s going to run out and we need to take action on this.”

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12): “I fully support the proposals here today that extend the COVID-era telehealth waiver authorities as it provides an important resource for seniors in my district, particularly in the rural areas and in the field of mental health care.”

U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN-08): “The COVID pandemic increased the rate of acceptance of telemedicine services. Everybody said it can’t be done right and we’ve proven that it can be done. We also know patients both younger and older have come to appreciate telemedicine and in 2022 in Medicare over eight million Medicare fee for service beneficiaries had at least one telehealth visit. It’s important that this committee obviously reauthorize existing telehealth authorities with the upcoming expiration dates because patients and their doctors need certainty that these services will continue.”

U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29): “It is important to understand the impact of telehealth services on underserved communities. As I said before it’s important that we protect all people in America, especially rural America where in some cases, someone may have to drive several hours just to see a regular physician much less a specialist.” 

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA-01): “When it comes to health care, all of us in Congress want the same thing, whether you’re a Republican a Democrat or an independent, we all want affordable accessible quality health care. I mean there’s no difference between any party or anyone up here we all want to have that and it’s that’s why I consider telehealth one of the great benefits of our health care system.”

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI-06): “As that deadline [for telehealth flexibilities] approaches, it’s critical that we think seriously about how we’re going to ensure that Americans can continue accessing these important telehealth services.”

U.S. Representative Jay Obernolte (R-CA-23): “I represent one of the largest geographic districts in the country, telehealth has been a complete game changer for my constituents. It’s enabled them access to healthcare that they just didn’t have before, and particularly for the more impoverished portions of my district where the ability to get in a car and drive for a couple of hours to see a specialist this does not exist it’s an economic impossibility for people.”

U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA-25): “Telehealth services are a game changer for many of these communities. They are lifesavers for the patient who lives too far from the nearest clinic, for the visually impaired patient who has difficulty navigating public transportation and would otherwise miss an in-person appointment, for the expecting mother with a high-risk pregnancy where the only maternity board in the region has been closed for example…It is important that Congress continues to expand access to telehealth to ensure our most vulnerable patients do not fall through the cracks.” 

U.S. Representative Greg Pence (R-IN-06): “It’s critical for patients in southern Indiana that our community build upon the success of the flexibilities provided for telehealth services during the pandemic.”

Watch the full hearing HERE and read TAFA’s statement ahead of the hearing HERE


Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.