Citing the efficacy of telehealth to maintain mental and behavioral healthcare treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of industry associations has sent a letter to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking that emergency regulations providing flexibility around telehealth be extended for “a reasonable transition period.”
In its letter, the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) praised the administration’s quick actions to reduce telehealth restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and requested that emergency regulations around the use of telehealth in Medicaid, Medicare, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other federally funded and subsidized health program be extended one year past the emergency period to allow time for research on the potential for extending flexibilities permanently.
“CMS eliminated many barriers to access with its meaningful regulatory changes. We have seen how efficient telehealth services can be. Now it’s time to ensure we eliminate those barriers once and for all by loosening telehealth restrictions permanently,” National Council president and CEO Chuck Ingoglia said in a statement. National Council is among the associations in MHLG.
The group proposed that during a one-year period once the pandemic emergency is declared over, telehealth flexibilities enacted in response to the pandemic would be retained, allowing CMS and states would collect data to assess the use and impact of telehealth.
“Such data collection would help inform CMS’ decisions on which flexibilities should be made permanent and responsibly administered,” MHLG wrote. “The transition period would also provide time to determine which flexibilities would require statutory changes by Congress to be made permanent and/or allow states to submit to CMS the necessary requests for authority revisions for approval.