Leader Rodgers: Telehealth Access has been a Game Changer for America’s Seniors
Telehealth Renaissance Reflects Benefit of Innovation that’s Needed in Traditional Medicare Fee-for-Service System
Washington, D.C. — Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) joined Axios for a discussion titled “The Future of Telehealth” as Congress considers extending telehealth flexibilities for seniors beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency.
CLICK HERE to watch the interview.
On How We Got Here:
“It’s an exciting telehealth Renaissance that we’re experiencing right now. I do think it’s important to reflect that telehealth had been around in a limited way for decades but most of that had been outside of Medicare’s fee-for-service system.
“Most of the innovation and patient benefit behind telehealth had been outside of traditional Medicare – in the employer sponsored insurance and Medicare Advantage program where there’s more flexibility, more personalization in those programs.
“Unfortunately, it took us a global pandemic to realize the larger benefits of telehealth and to introduce telehealth into traditional Medicare.”
On the Impact on Americans in Rural and Underserved Communities:
“Telehealth now – to your point – enjoys broad bipartisan support. I think of people in Eastern Washington – the patients I’ve talked to – as well as those my colleagues across the country – are telling us that patients have been happy with telehealth.
“They have appreciated being able to be connected to a doctor without having to go to in-person, especially during COVID.
“You think about the person who has a cold or a more minor health care issue being able to connect to the provider without having to get an appointment.
“In an area that I represent, that is rural, patients might have to travel further distances, being able to connect electronically would be a game changer and really make a difference in getting access to care quicker and addressing those health care needs that’s going to serve people better.”
On Priorities for an Extension:
“First and foremost, we want to delink the telehealth flexibilities from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. That’s step one.
“We want to make sure patients remain in control of their doctor visit decisions, and it’s the patient deciding whether or not to utilize telehealth services or if they prefer to see a provider in-person.
“We’re also having broader conversations about the guardrails on the program to make sure we are cutting down on potential waste, fraud, and abuse, which we’ll see in any program.
“We need to create a permanent structure around telehealth. Right now, we’re working on a short-term bridge policy to give us some time to consider what the guardrails would be and where the maximum efficiencies would be.”
On a Pathway Forward in Congress:
“I think it would be a big win for the American people for us to be able to come to an agreement on a bridge on telehealth.
“I would highlight that there was a bipartisan bill that passed the House – a two-year extension – that included a lot of flexibilities. Over 400 Representatives in the House voted for that legislation, and it provides certainty around Medicare paying for those services, and it also offset the cost.
“The House has done some important work on this. I’m going to be pushing to get as much of the House bill as possible into a year-end package if that should all come together.”
“Whether it’s a bridge, or whether we get something attached to a year-end package, we will be doing more work around telehealth and making some long-term decisions.”