Members of Congress introduced new legislation on Wednesday that could expand the ability of audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and other health care professionals to provide telehealth services.
The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 4932/S. 2741) could lead to elimination of Medicare restrictions on the types of providers who can be reimbursed for telehealth services under certain conditions. The bill, which was introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and David Schweikert (R-AZ), would improve seniors’ access to safe, effective, and high-quality health care.
Current Medicare rules don’t recognize audiologists and SLPs as eligible telehealth providers. However, state licensure, private payers, and some Medicaid plans recognize and reimburse for audiology and speech-language telehealth services.
The CONNECT for Health Act would authorize the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive restrictions on the types of providers who can provide telehealth services. It would also permit demonstration programs that could allow audiologists and SLPs—and other health care professionals—to provide telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries.
Telehealth services enhance access to hearing, balance, speech, language, swallowing, and cognitive health care services for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and medically underserved areas.
To advocate in support of this legislation, contact your congressional representatives and urge them to increase access to Medicare telehealth services by cosponsoring the CONNECT for Health Act of 2019. You can easily do this through an online form available on ASHA’s Take Action website.
Jerry White is director of ASHA federal affairs in health care. firstname.lastname@example.org.