Sen. Warner Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Group in Introducing Legislation to Expand Telehealth Services
May 27 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) with Sen. John Barrasso M.D. (R-WY) and Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John Joyce M.D. (R-PA), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced the bipartisan Kidney Health Connect Act to allow dialysis clinics to serve as originating sites for telehealth services and guarantee that patients are not responsible for additional costs.
“The pandemic showed us that telehealth is a critical tool in providing timely and safe access to health care while cutting costs for patients and providers,” Sen. Warner said. “After working to expand telehealth to home dialysis in 2018, I’m proud to build on those efforts by introducing legislation that would permanently increase telehealth flexibilities for the many Americans that rely on dialysis centers. As we move out of the pandemic, we must continue working to expand sensible protections that make health care work better for all.”
Over the course of the pandemic, patients have benefited from increased access to telehealth services. However, for patients insured through Medicare, these flexibilities are temporary and tied to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration. This legislation gives patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) continued access to connect with their providers by:
- Allowing dialysis clinics to serve as originating sites for Medicare telehealth services.
- Removing the 20 percent facility fee coinsurance obligation for patients accessing telehealth services in the clinic.
This continues Sen. Warner’s leadership after successfully expanding telehealth to home dialysis services. Sen. Warner was also an original co-sponsor of the 2016 Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, reintroduced in 2021, and has been a longtime advocate for the expansion of telehealth in order to ease access to health care.
Sen. Warner has consistently pushed for the permanent expansion of telehealth services, writing letters to congressional leadership in June 2020 and February 2022, among other efforts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, telehealth expansion allows individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available nearby.
A copy of the bill is available here.