Workforce/Behavioral Health/Telehealth

State of Play:  President Trump signed an executive order to expand telehealth services, and the proposed 2021 physician fee schedule proposes permanently to add new codes and temporarily to add others to allow providers to receive reimbursement for telehealth services through 2021. Vice President Joe Biden’s plan for Mobilizing American Talent and Heart to Create a 21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce announced July 21 would create a Public Health Jobs Corps. The Trump administration has re-established the Ready Reserve Corps as part of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). According the Peterson-KFF Healthcare System Tracker, nearly 1.5 million healthcare jobs were lost between February and April 2020. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced awards over $100 million to increase the health workforce in rural and underserved communities.

HLC Position: HLC believes health system stability includes having a well-trained workforce to meet the needs of our country’s evolving health system, as well as our growing and aging population. This must include an emphasis on rural health. HLC also supports the expanded use of telemedicine and immigration rules that allow recruitment of nurses and other workers critical to the healthcare industry. Improved policies and payment methodologies in telemedicine services will further help meet patient needs.  Nonphysician providers should be allowed to practice to the full scope of their training and should be reimbursed for such services. More must be done to make mental and behavioral health services more accessible and integrated for those who can benefit from them.

HLC Recent Activity:

  • HLC has assisted in enlisting cosponsors of the “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act” (S.3599; H.R. 6788).
  • On August 21, an HLC op-ed in Morning Consult discussed the need to prioritize critical funding for expanded COVID-19 testing for essential healthcare workers and employees.
  • On August 13, HLC wrote the House Ways and Means Committee in advance of its roundtable discussion on, “Examining the Role of Telehealth during COVID-19 and Beyond.”
  • On August 8, HLC wrote Senators Roy Blunt (R/MO) and Chris Murphy (D/CT) in support of S.4421, the “Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment Act.”
  • On August 3, HLC signed a joint letter in support of H.R. 7663, the “Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act.”
  • On July 31, HLC wrote Rep. Kevin Brady (R/TX) and Devin Nunes (R/CA) in support of their proposed bill making many telehealth waivers permanent.
  • On July 30, HLC joined a letter urging Senate and House leadership to support S. 4317, the “Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy Act.”
  • On July 27, HLC wrote the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee urging the committee to include rural-based initiatives in advancing telehealth opportunities.
  • On July 21, HLC signed a joint letter urging Senate and House leadership to prioritize robust federal funding for the testing needed to reopen the country.
  • On June 23, HLC wrote the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee ahead of its hearing, “COVID-19: Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic.”
  • On June 17, HLC sent a letter to the Senate HELP Committee on lessons learned to improve telehealth use after the COVID-19 health pandemic.
  • On June 15, HLC signed onto a joint letter supporting permanent extension of COVID-19 telehealth waivers for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • On May 27, HLC signed a joint letter to House and Senate leadership on enacting employer-based liability protections.
  • On May 13, HLC sent a video to Senators David Perdue (R/GA) and Dick Durbin (D/IL) voicing support for S.3599, the “Workforce Resilience Act.”
  • In May, HLC successfully advocated for the extension of state licensure waivers in New York and Washington, D.C.
  • On May 11, HLC issued a press release to the House and Senate urging Congress to act swiftly on bipartisan legislation that would use already existing visas to address physician and nurse shortages in the United States exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On May 8, HLC wrote the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of employer liability protections for those employers who follow government guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On May 6, HLC wrote the Senate Commerce Committee regarding its hearing, “The Current State of Broadband,” emphasizing the need for continued efforts by the Federal Communications Commission, particularly during the public health crisis, to enable swifter access to broadband for healthcare providers and patients, particularly those residing in rural areas where access has been limited or nonexistent.
  • On April 30, HLC wrote Representatives David McKinley (R/WV) and Peter Welch (D/VT) in support of H.R. 5924, “A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize a loan repayment program to encourage specialty medicine physicians to serve in rural communities experiencing a shortage of specialty medicine physicians, and for other purposes.”
  • On April 29, HLC advocated to the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor, and State on nonimmigrant visa measures to include in their recommendations to the White House to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. medical workforce.
  • On April 17, HLC shared its COVID-19 key legislative priorities list with Senate and House leadership for consideration in future legislative packages to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On April 9, HLC responded to CMS’s request for information on maternal and infant healthcare in rural communities and provided recommendations on telehealth.
  • On April 8, HLC conducted a call with House Judiciary majority staff to discuss the need for additional regulatory waivers during the COVID-19 response.
  • On April 2, HLC conducted a call with Senate Judiciary minority staff to discuss the need for additional regulatory waivers during the COVID-19 response.
  • On March 25, HLC issued a press release praising the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) efforts to extend the capacity of the healthcare workforce and create flexibility to address workforce needs in areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HLC worked with HHS to release a memorandum to governors on waiving state licensure requirements for healthcare providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On March 20, HLC signed a letter to Senate leadership expressing support for S. 3539, which would exempt telehealth services from certain high-deductible health plan rules.
  • On March 18, HLC advocated to Vice President Mike Pence and House and Senate leadership via a coalition letter for expanding provider license capability and provider capacity to practice.
  • On March 11, HLC signed a joint letter to House and Senate leadership on strengthening telehealth for COVID-19.
  • On January 28, HLC posted a blog on congressional efforts to prevent and treat substance use disorders.
  • On January 17, HLC submitted comments to CMS on efforts to eliminate regulatory requirements that restrict scope of practice in the Medicare program.