The House passed a bill to allow states to begin Medicaid redeterminations on April 1 even if the public health emergency continues. That provision would have given states more time to sort through Medicaid rolls. But that bill, known as Build Back Better, has virtually no chance of passage in the Senate.
The CMS and other agencies used the emergency to institute policies and waivers to expand the use of telehealth, and many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lobbied for that to continue after the emergency ends.
Congress extended telehealth coverage of Medicare for the five months after the emergency ends in the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending bill (PL 117-95). The provision waives charges and the requirement for a first visit to be in person, and allows Medicare to continue covering audio-only telehealth.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, get time to decide how to proceed on telehealth waivers that have wide bipartisan support.
“The last two years have proven that telehealth works. It has made it easier and safer for people to see their doctors and stay healthy,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said upon passage of the omnibus. “While this extension is helpful, these changes should be made permanent,” he added, referring to a bill he has offered (S 1512) to permanently expand many of telehealth flexibilities.