HHS Secretary Becerra: We’re with You on Telehealth Flexibilities

Telehealth flexibilities must become permanent U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra indicated in a congressional hearing today.

At the end of this year, telehealth flexibilities implemented during the pandemic are slated to expire. In a hearing before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Becerra said that HHS was willing to make them permanent. However, he said this would require closer collaboration with state governments.

“We’re with you. We can’t allow those flexibilities to expire, and we need to work closer with our state partners, because much of the flexibility that comes from telehealth means being able to go over state lines,” Becerra said. “Right now, because states decide who gets licensed to do care, we have to have the cooperation of the states so we can go beyond its own state borders.”


Becerra pledged that HHS is “prepared to work with” bipartisan lawmakers to craft a long-term solution.

Many health care stakeholders have argued that Congress and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) must make them permanent, arguing that telehealth has become an indispensable tool.

Last summer, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and 59 bipartisan co-sponsors reintroduced legislation that would extend Medicare coverage of telehealth and make the flexibilities permanent. A companion bill was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.


If enacted, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act would remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home, among others. It would also permit health centers, rural health clinics and eligible health care professionals to provide telehealth services.

The bill would “protect and improve” access for U.S. hospice patients, according to Patrick Harrison, senior director of regulatory and compliance at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

“Telehealth services make it easier for hospices to provide equitable care for patients, increasing interaction with patients and their loved ones and offering more visibility into the patient’s condition even amidst staffing challenges,” Harrison told Hospice News in an email. “Soon, hospice providers may not be able to provide as many telehealth services as they currently do.”

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