The Equal Access to Care Act was reintroduced this week after having been submitted last year, and dying in committee. It would expand access to telehealth licensure to treat patients in any state for up to six months beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill’s main purpose is to ease the federal telehealth licensure regulations against providers who wish to treat patients in other states. While those rules have been relaxed somewhat during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), with some states recognizing licenses issued in other states, those freedoms are currently scheduled to end with the PHE.
What is in the Equal Access to Care Act?
Under the bill, “a physician, practitioner, or other health care provider who is licensed or otherwise legally authorized to provide health care services in a primary state, and who provides such health care services in interstate commerce through electronic information or telecommunication technologies to an individual in a secondary state, the location of the provision of such services shall be deemed to be the primary state and any requirement that such physician, practitioner, or other provider obtain a comparable license or other comparable legal authorization from the secondary state to the provision of such services (including requirements relating to the prescribing of drugs in such secondary state) shall not apply.”
What Is the Requested Time Frame In the Proposed Equal Access to Care Act?
If passed, the bill would remain in effect for up to 180 days after the PHE ends, which now is officially extended to January 1, 2022. “Senseless government bureaucracy should never get in the way of treating someone who is sick,” Budd said in a press release. “Patients, especially those in rural America, deserve as many options as possible if they need to see a doctor online or over the phone. This common-sense bill makes it easier for healthcare providers to treat patients and for patients to get the care they need quickly.”
The issue affects a wide range of providers, from specialists who want to treat patients with specific needs across the country, to hospitals and practices near state borders or in multi-state regions such as New England, to large health systems with sites in several states. While most telehealth-related bills failed to make it out of committee last year, lawmakers and telehealth advocates hope for a better result in 2021. They are pressing the Biden administration and the new Congress to make telehealth licensure a priority.
National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation Report
Further buttressing the Equal Access to Care Bill, the release of the Healthcare Leadership Council and the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, the 25-page National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation report extracts lessons learned from COVID-19 and offers guidelines so that the nation will be better prepared if and when something this disruptive happens again. In proposing a national strategy for preparing for the next pandemic or disaster the report stresses the need for increased access to and coverage of telehealth licensure plan that spans all 50 states so the nation will be better prepared if and when another pandemic strikes again.
Where Can You Get More Information about the Future of Telehealth Licensure and Your Services?
To assist providers who wish to learn more about inter-jurisdictional practice, Telehealth.org has scheduled a special 2-hour webinar with 1.5 CME and CE Credit Hours. Consider attending Telehealth.org’s How can I legally practice over state lines and international borders? This program will ask you to read, watch a video tutorial, ask your questions and discuss the material in Telehealth.org’s Discussion Forum anytime prior to the event, then join the group for 30 minutes to ask your live questions and get real answers in a lively, interactive video-based exchange with Telehealth.org’s World-Class Faculty. All questions will be gathered at least 1 week ahead of time. Register now to benefit from this highly interactive format that allows you to get real answer(s) to maximize your telehealth efforts!
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