Ensuring Access to Telehealth for CRT
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve gotten
used to doing a lot of things from home. One
positive of the pandemic is that it’s brought
telehealth to the forefront.
While telehealth isn’t new, Public Health
Emergency (PHE) authorizations during the
pandemic expanded the availability of telehealth
services for Medicare beneficiaries and
others. This included authorizing physical and
occupational therapists as telehealth services
practitioners and making some billing codes
used by physical and occupational therapists
billable as telehealth services.
The National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab
Technology (NCART) and the CRT Remote
Service Consortium are currently petitioning
the federal government to pass legislation to
make those authorizations permanent. “These
actions are needed to improve access, diagnosis,
interventions, and outcomes for Medicare
beneficiaries with significant disabilities who
require CRT wheelchairs and other CRT items,”
stated Donald E. Clayback, NCART Executive
Director, in a letter to Congress.
A permanent authorization would help break
down barriers to care, including:
- Limited access to qualified practitioners that require patients to travel long distances in order to meet with clinicians with the necessary expertise;
- Transportation challenges;
- Threat of exposure to viruses or other health risks for individuals with compromised or weakened immune systems, respiratory difficulties and comorbidities; and
- Physical challenges, such as anxiety, fatigue and pain exacerbated by long travel times, lengthy evaluations, equipment trials and more.
In March 2021, the Expanded Telehealth Act
(H.R. 2168) was introduced in the House of
Representatives. The bill has gained bipartisan
support, but has not moved out of committee.
The House legislation closely aligns with a
similar bill introduced in the Senate in early
November 2021. The Expanded Telehealth
Access Act (S.3193) will expand reimbursement
for telehealth services to physical therapists,
audiologists, occupational therapists and
speech language pathologists.
Unless Congress acts to pass this legislation,
access to these CRT services via telehealth will
end when the PHE declaration expires. Make
your voice heard by emailing your Members of
Congress by visiting protectmymobility.org.