Rep. Axne Backs Legislation to Preserve Telehealth Options for Iowans

August 10, 2021
Press Release
Announcement follows successful efforts to expand telehealth coverage during COVID-19

Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) announced her support for two bipartisan bills – the Telehealth Modernization Act and the CONNECT for Health Act – to preserve telehealth options for Iowans beyond COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has relaxed requirements to allow more patients and providers to use telehealth. Recent data has shown that 65% of Medicare beneficiaries report their provider is offering telehealth, and 45% of beneficiaries whose provider is offering telehealth have had a telehealth visit.

Together, the Telehealth Modernization Act and the CONNECT for Health Act take steps to preserve and expand telehealth by:

  • Allowing all beneficiaries – not only those in rural and health professional shortage areas – to use telehealth, by removing the geographic site requirement
  • Allowing beneficiaries to use telehealth from their own homes, by amending the originating site requirement
  • Ensuring reimbursement for telehealth services provided by health centers and rural health clinics
  • Improving the process for covering additional telehealth services

“COVID-19 forced us all to adapt our lives at a moment’s notice, and I’ve seen firsthand just how quickly patients and providers have embraced telehealth as a new option to receive and deliver high-quality health care,” said Rep. Axne. “Telehealth isn’t just cutting down on face-to-face visits and preventing the spread of COVID-19, it’s also cutting back on travel times to and from appointments, supporting Iowans who may lack regular access to transportation, and allowing Iowa’s health care providers to meet people where they are. I’m proud to give my support to these bipartisan efforts and will continue working to make sure we make valuable telehealth services permanent for Iowans.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Rep. Axne has been a strong advocate for securing more access to telehealth services for Iowans.

Last April, Rep. Axne introduced the bipartisan Emergency COVID Telehealth Response Act to ensure that physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, and clinical social workers can receive telehealth reimbursement rates from CMS.

Following the introduction of that bill, CMS announced an expansion and clarification of telehealth coverage for four of these key therapeutic services.

Last October, Rep. Axne also led a bipartisan letter urging CMS to permit audiologists and speech-language pathologists to offer more telehealth services for seniors on Medicare. After the letter, CMS subsequently updated its list of eligible telehealth services to include 24 Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes covering key services provided by audiologists and speech-language pathologists. 

Rep. Axne is also co-leading the KEEP Telehealth Options Act, legislation to gather information on telehealth use during the pandemic in order to support making telehealth options and adjusted reimbursement rates permanent.