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Stakeholders help secure extension for telehealth

Stakeholders help secure extension for telehealth

WASHINGTON – Complex rehab stakeholders helped to make sure that a recently passed omnibus bill extending telehealth services beyond the public health emergency included physical therapists and occupational therapists. 

The bill, signed by President Biden on March 15 and passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate the week prior, extends telehealth services for 151 days beyond the PHE. 

“This is a positive development for protecting remote services for people with disabilities who use CRT,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has said it will provide 60-day notice prior to ending the PHE, which is currently set to expire in mid-April. 

Stakeholders believe that HHS will extend the PHE one more time. 

“Congressional and administrative staff seem to be indicating (the PHE) will be extended one more time and then phased out potentially in mid-July, but no decisions have been made on that yet,” said Seth Johnson, senior vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products and Quantum Rehab. “That’s obviously extremely important to us because of the application of the telehealth flexibility that’s currently in place.” 

While stakeholders have argued for permanently allowing PTs and OTs to use telehealth for wheelchair evaluations when it’s necessary, it wasn’t a surprise that Congress opted for another temporary measure, Johnson says. 

“The discussions indicated an extension could be through the current fiscal year or two years,” he said. 

It also wasn’t a surprise that the bill requires MedPAC to conduct a study on the expansion of telehealth services and submit a report to Congress by June 15, 2023. 

“CMS has concerns with telehealth and it possibly being abused,” said Dan Fedor, director of reimbursement and education for U.S. Rehab. “We want to make sure it’s used properly, in the proper setting and for a reason. It really shouldn’t be a blanket for all.” 

Complex rehab may be “a small piece of the telehealth message,” Clayback says, but the industry’s increased advocacy leading up to the bill and the PHE’s possible expiration was key. 

“The emails (to senators and representatives) do make a difference,” he said. “If a member of Congress is getting 10 emails, that’s enough to have one of the staffers take a look at it and it’s the start of a productive discussion.” 


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