U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has joined U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and a bipartisan group of 29 senators in calling for the expansion of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent. Previous COVID-related legislation allowed Medicare beneficiaries to utilize telehealth services, and freed up more types of health care providers to provide telehealth for the first time. Those measures are set to expire following the pandemic, unless congressional leaders act to make the changes permanent.
“Telehealth is working for Rhode Island seniors and their doctors,” said Whitehouse. “Not every medical issue requires an in-person visit to the doctor’s office, which can come with risks for seniors. Allowing doctors to continue to get compensated for the time they spend treating patients over the phone or by videoconference will result in happier patients and ultimately, a more efficient, lower cost health care system for everyone.”
The senators made their request in a letter sent to Senate leaders of both parties. In the letter, the senators highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the ongoing pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by 11,718 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic. The full text of the letter is available here.