The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act introduced in the 116th Congress contained a provision that would allow health care professionals who are not covered to provide telehealth services under current law, such as respiratory therapists, to do so as part of the alternative payment models being tested by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services Innovation Center.
Although we have been assured by Congressional staff that there is every intention to retain the provision when the bill is reintroduced in the new Congress, AARC wanted to make sure that both the House and Senate leaders of the Congressional Telehealth Working Group knew how important it was to the profession to expand the ability of respiratory therapists to provide telehealth services to those individuals who are diagnosed with chronic respiratory disease and how their expertise can lead to improved health outcomes.
“We also wanted the workgroup to know our concerns about the potential for additional respiratory resources as those diagnosed with COVID-19 continue to need supplemental oxygen and the long-term effects of potential lung damage caused by the virus is still unknown,” said AARC President Sheri Tooley. “Telehealth can benefit this population and expanding access to respiratory therapists is critical to improving their health care needs,” she added.
For the duration of the public health emergency, CMS determined that respiratory therapists can provide telehealth services incident to the professional services of a physician or other qualified health care professional who can bill Medicare. The PHE was renewed on January 21, 2021 and remains in effect for 90 days. However, in a recent letter to state Governors, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determined the PHE will likely remain in effect through the end of 2021, which is good news for the profession. When the PHE is terminated, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to the termination date.
The CONNECT for Health Act was a key piece of legislation that AARC advocated for last year, and it will be at the top of our list as we begin to plan for our 2021 legislative activities. We want to make sure there are permanent provisions in place that will allow respiratory therapists to continue to provide telehealth services.
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