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  • Writer's pictureStephen Randall

Why The 2-Year Telehealth Extension Is Likely to Become Permanent.

Healthcare’s challenges are not going away anytime soon.




Telehealth Expansion

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee presented a 2-year telehealth extension including wins for rural health. Although everyone in telehealth would have preferred a permanent extension, this is good news and it is reasonable to assume that legislation will eventually support permanent changes, given the increasing reliance on digital-first experiences and the demonstrated benefits of telehealth.


Such predictions, especially in the current climate, are predictably unpredictable, but I don’t think the rationale for an eventual permanent extension is unreasonable.


The challenges that telehealth address are not going away.


There is strong bipartisan support for telehealth, as evidenced by recent the legislative actions. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have recognized the importance of maintaining and expanding telehealth services​.


Although the current extension is for two years, the consistent renewal and expansion of telehealth flexibilities suggest a trend towards long-term adoption. The inclusion of provisions for Hospital-at-Home services (preserved through 2029) and other telehealth programs further indicates a legislative commitment to integrating these services into the healthcare system​.

 

There is strong bipartisan support for telehealth, as evidenced by recent the legislative actions.

 

Furthermore, the availability of inexpensive consumer OTC FDA-cleared medical devices, ranging from EKGs, Continuous Monitoring Glucose devices and Digital Stethoscopes, enable clinicians to conduct remote exams that are on a par with in-person exams. This technological momentum will make telehealth even more effective and accessible and underpin the case for permanent telehealth policies​.

 

Healthcare providers are increasingly integrating telehealth into their standard practices, recognizing its value in enhancing patient care and operational efficiency. This integration creates a strong foundation for permanent legislative support​​.

 

As also stated by the House Committee on Ways and Means, telehealth can reduce healthcare costs by minimizing the need for in-person visits, lowering transportation expenses, and decreasing hospital readmissions. These economic benefits are compelling reasons for policymakers to support the permanence of telehealth​ (House Committee on Ways and Means)​​.

 

Given these factors, it is reasonable to anticipate that telehealth legislation will become permanent. The ongoing positive outcomes, coupled with legislative, technological, economic, and public health considerations, suggest a strong likelihood of sustained government support for telehealth beyond the current two-year extension period.



References and further reading:


1. Ways and Means Protects and Expands Telehealth Access, Health Care in Rural and Underserved Communities


The Preserving Telehealth, Hospital, and Ambulance Access Act (H.R. 8261)


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