May 12, 2022

Members of Congress Reaffirm Commitment to Virtual Care as Next Public Health Emergency Benchmark Approaches

As U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has noted, there will be a 60-day notice made by HHS before the end of the public health emergency (PHE) — that provides critical telehealth flexibilities yet to be made permanent by Congress. The PHE was most recently extended to July 15 in April. This coming Monday, May 16, is 60-days out from July 15 and therefore the soonest possible date the public could hear about a potential end of the PHE.

If the PHE ends without permanent protections, lawmakers will have just 151 days to ensure individuals access to virtual care. There is broad-based agreement among Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, that solutions to safeguard access to telehealth must be passed.

Lawmakers must capitalize on this consensus, and the unprecedented momentum for action, to pass permanent telehealth protections. Read some of what lawmakers have had to say:

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman, Committee on Finance: “Throughout the pandemic, telehealth was a key tool to help seniors and other Americans access health services without putting themselves at risk during the early days of the pandemic.” (Senate Committee on Finance, 5/5/22)

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) “Telehealth services have been a lifeline to patients and providers during the pandemic, ensuring that individuals can continue to receive quality health care from the safety and convenience of their own homes.” (Press Release, 1/25/22)

U.S. Representative Lee Johnson (R-AR): “I think we need to continue to look at telehealth options and how we grow that access. Suicide rates in Arkansas have gone up 43% since the year 2000, so I think it’s important that we also try to look at how we address behavioral health issues in Arkansas, and we’d like to try to be a part in improving that as well.” (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 5/7/22)

U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD): “We know we have to broaden that kind of access across the country…We also know that telehealth services make a huge difference. During the pandemic, we needed to seize on that opportunity to deliver health care remotely to many, many people in our country, including seniors.” (CBS Baltimore, 5/9/22)

U.S. Representative Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE): “I talked about telehealth and how important that is to expand that access for everyone, I was working on that for rural purposes before the pandemic, we know that the need is greater than just for rural purposes. We know many people are depending on this.” (Ways and Means Committee Hearing, 4/28/2022)

U.S. Representative Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA): “Telehealth has proven to help folks cut back on travel times to and from appointments and ensures that Iowans who may lack regular access to transportation can still meet with their doctors. Telehealth visits allow Iowa’s health care providers to meet people where they are, and I am proud to lead this effort to make sure we allow Iowans to continue using vital telehealth services.” (Press Release, 4/26/22)

U.S. Representative Rep. Paul Lee (R-AL): “Access to telehealth is critical, especially in the rural communities.” (Alabama Political Reporter, 4/6/22)

Read more on what lawmakers are saying about the urgent need to protect access to telehealth HERE, HERE and HERE.
Learn more about Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) and permanent solutions to protect access to telehealth HERE.