Cheyenne, OK – Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (the Order) further expanding access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural communities. Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) released the following statement today applauding the Trump Administration’s actions and committing to continue to work to further expand access to health care in Oklahoma’s rural communities:
“Earlier this month, President Trump took an important step to ensure those living in rural communities across Oklahoma have better, more reliable access to medical care. When Americans were asked to stay in their homes, the responsibilities and need for care prompted quick changes for both the well-being of patients and health care providers. Thanks to telehealth, Americans are receiving better access to the doctors of their choice all while avoiding unnecessary exposure to coronavirus,” said Congressman Lucas.
“I applaud the President’s commitment to ensuring all Americans, including those in rural America, have access to quality health care throughout the coronavirus pandemic and into the future, and will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to deliver an affordable, patient-centered healthcare system for the American people.”
The Order requires the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to announce a new payment model, testing innovations that empower rural providers to transform healthcare on a much broader scale.
This Order also requires HHS to submit a report to the President on how to increase access to health care in rural areas by reducing regulatory and disease burdens and improve maternal and mental health in rural areas.
Through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Federal government is directed to launch a rural health action plan to 1) build sustainable models for rural communities, 2) focus on preventing disease and mortality, 3) leverage innovation and technology, and 4) increase access to care.
Finally, the Order also requires the HHS Secretary to review and extend, as appropriate, the current waivers put in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency, which have brought critical flexibilities and telehealth access to millions of Americans.
As part of the federal response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), both Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) have expanded the use of telemedicine for the duration of the PHE including:
- Waiving the Medicare requirement that telehealth be conducted only in rural areas and certain types of health care facilities and providers;
- Expanding the types of services Medicare providers can bill for telehealth;
- Enabling certain types of Medicare services traditionally done face-to-face to be conducted via telehealth, such as home dialysis and hospice services;
- Expanding access through audio-only telehealth;
- Allowing Medicare Advantage plans for offer more telehealth services Appropriating $200 million to the Federal Communications Commission in the to create the COVID-19 Telehealth Program in order to support telehealth services across the country and specifically promote telehealth for low-income consumers.
Lucas recently signed onto a letter led by Congressman Kevin Hern supporting the permanent extension of CMS’ recently proposed rule ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries do not lose access to these important telehealth services when the temporary waivers end.