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Internists Tell HHS Extending Public Health Emergency is Critical to Ensuring Access to Telehealth

Washington, DC (July 23, 2020) — In a letter sent today to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American College of Physicians (ACP) said that it is critically important that HHS take immediate action to ensure that the declared public health emergency (PHE), set to expire on July 25, is continued so that patients can continue to have access to telehealth.  

If the current declaration is allowed to expire at the end of this week, most of the increased flexibilities and waivers created by the PHE that allow physicians to have virtual visits with patients will also end. While officials have indicated that they plan to extend it, no formal action or announcement has been made.

“Even a brief interruption in continuing the telehealth policies, or uncertainty about whether they will continue past July 25, will disrupt physicians and their practices and do great harm to patients who have come to rely on telehealth and phone calls for a significant portion of their care,” wrote Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP in the letter.

The letter continued by looking forward to what should be done beyond the immediate period in order to ensure that patients can continue to access telehealth and telephone services.

“ACP believes that the patient care and revenue opportunities afforded by the PHE-allowed flexibilities for telehealth and telephone services will continue to play a significant role within the U.S. health care system and care delivery models into the near future,” concluded Dr. Fincher. “Therefore, we believe that the temporary waiving of geographic restrictions on Medicare coverage of telehealth should be made permanent. Additionally, other telehealth flexibilities from the PHE must remain in effect least through the end of 2021, with an option to extend even further, and with consideration of making many of its waivers permanent, based on the experiences and lessons learned by both patients and physicians using these revised policies.”

The complete letter can be found on ACP’s website.

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org