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Lawmakers push for permanent COVID-19 telehealth extension for America’s seniors

Rebecca Barnabi
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Pandemic-era flexibilities will expire on Dec. 31, 2024 without further action by Congress and force seniors to adapt to new care routines. 

In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, the lawmakers underscored the urgent need to make pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities permanent.

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia joined U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers to urge the HHS to work with Congress to ensure Medicare beneficiaries maintain access to telehealth. 

“We urge you to work with Congress to ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries have permanent access to telehealth services before the temporary waivers expire on December 31, 2024,” the lawmakers wrote. “Enacting permanent telehealth legislation will require collaboration between HHS and Congress in the year ahead. We urge you to communicate to Congress and the public the authorities, appropriations, resources, and other supports needed to achieve this goal.”

The lawmakers wrote that telehealth is cost-effective and improves access to care, especially for rural and underserved communities.

“Telehealth also allows patients to choose a medical provider that best suits their personal medical needs. Medicare beneficiaries have come to rely on expanded access to telehealth and are satisfied with the care they have received.”

Joining Warner and Schatz in sending the letter were U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Ben Cardin of Maryland, John Thune of South Dakota and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, and U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson of California, David Schweikert of Arizona, Doris Matsui of California and Bill Johnson of Ohio.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.