Momentum Building for Making Telehealth Authority Permanent

Following congressional approval of legislation in March authorizing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to provide certain services remotely under Medicare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services enabled members of both professions to do so during the public health emergency (PHE). Key lawmakers are now urging for permanent change, including leaders of the Senate Telehealth Caucus who spearheaded a letter to Senate leaders on the issue. During a Senate committee hearing, additional members expressed support for extending existing telehealth authority beyond the PHE including Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who highlighted how SLPs can provide essential swallowing therapy through telehealth, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who shared how telehealth helped her with a hearing issue. In the House, Representatives Troy Balderson (R-OH) and Cindy Axne (D-IA) introduced the KEEP Telehealth Options Act, which would require HHS to collect and report key data on telehealth services provided during the pandemic to help demonstrate its efficacy. Rep. Axne’s press release included a quote from ASHA President Theresa Rodgers highlighting the importance of data collection to demonstrate the essential services audiologists and SLPs provide.