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Washington, DC – Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) spoke on the House floor earlier today in support of H.R. 4040, the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2021. She is an original sponsor of this legislation that expands patients’ access to telehealth services. 

The legislation is expected to receive a vote in the House later today. Please click here for video of Rep. Cheney’s speech along with a transcript of her remarks below: 

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for yielding. I appreciate it. And I’m very pleased, Madam Speaker, that today the House will have the opportunity to vote on this important bipartisan legislation. It is an unusual circumstance to have a bill that has such broad bipartisan support. I know many of my colleagues have worked on many different aspects of the bill that we are going to consider and vote on today. I’m honored to be an original cosponsor of this bill, along with my good friend from Michigan, Congresswoman Dingell, who spoke earlier. All of us, I think, around the country, especially in rural America, saw the impact of COVID on the ability of our constituents to get the treatment that they need. 

We first began working on legislation to expand telehealth capabilities more than two years ago, just following the onset of the pandemic. In Wyoming, we have long known how important it is for citizens to be able to take advantage of the technology that exists today – how crucial telehealth services are in allowing all of our citizens to interact with their doctors and their other health care providers. And we saw this in particular during the pandemic. We know it’s vital that Medicare adapt to the ever-changing innovation in medical technology that allows telehealth services. And this legislation really will expand freedom for patients by giving them more flexibility, more capability to use telehealth services. Specifically, the legislation removes geographic requirements, and it expands originating sites so that Medicare beneficiaries can receive care at any site, can expand the practitioners who are able to furnish telehealth services, and it also provides for audio-only telehealth. I am very pleased that this extension through 2024 was fully paid for using the Medicare Improvement Fund, and the CBO has shown that it will not increase direct spending. 

Madam Speaker, in Wyoming especially, we know how important this is, how important telehealth access is. Many of our citizens live hours, hundreds of miles away, from their closest medical provider. And I am very proud that this bill has the support of the Wyoming Hospital Association, in addition to the American Medical Association and a number of other crucial groups whose mission is to serve patients and to provide quality care. While I know we in this body will continue to have legitimate and important ongoing policy debates about health care, there is, as I said, broad bipartisan agreement for expanding access so that all of our citizens can receive high-quality care. That needs to continue to be a top priority. This bill does just that by allowing more Americans to utilize telehealth services. 

I want to thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for joining me in advancing our bill to this point. And I would urge all Members to vote in favor of this legislation so more citizens can connect and receive care from the medical professionals of their choice. Thank you, Madam Speaker. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

BACKGROUND:

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress authorized bipartisan legislation expanding telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in March of 2020. Over the past two years, telehealth has increased access to services in rural and underserved communities and ensured continuity of care during challenging and unique circumstances. Current telehealth provisions are set to expire five months after the pandemic health emergency ends. 

BILL SUMMARY: 

This act would extend critical telehealth policies under Medicare that were initially authorized at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through 2024. 

Specifically, the bill would allow for the two-year continuation of: 

  • Increased range of locations from which a beneficiary may receive telehealth services by removing geographic restrictions and expanding originating sites. 
  • Expanded telehealth services offered by qualified physicians and practitioners, including: physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwifes, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, registered dieticians, and nutrition professionals. 
  • Medicare reimbursement of telehealth services provided by physicians and practitioners working for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs). 
  • Mental health services furnished through telehealth for up to six months without an in-person meeting. 
  • Audio-only telehealth services to ensure seniors and rural patients who may not have internet connectivity can receive the care they need. 
  • Expanded access to telehealth services for recertification of hospice care eligibility during an emergency period.

More information on the bill can be seen here when it was initially introduced this Congress. Rep. Cheney first introduced legislation to permanently expand telehealth services in June, 2020.  

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