Press Releases

Trump Implements Smith’s Request to Allow Telehealth Access in Rural Areas

Medicare Change Allows for Tele-health Services to Now be Conducted Over the Phone

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Washington, April 2, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) praised the Trump Administration’s updated Medicare guidance announced on Monday, which will permit health care providers to evaluate seniors over the telephone instead of in person or requiring a video conference. Smith has been urging the Administration to make this change to Medicare’s telehealth requirements after hearing concerns from rural health care providers.

Two weeks ago, Congressman Smith held a call with 50 health care providers, doctors, and other medical professionals from around southern Missouri to hear from them about what resources they need and how he can help. On the call, Smith heard how Medicare’s strict telehealth requirements, which mandate video communication, raised serious concerns. First, these rules would greatly limit the ability to provide care to seniors who were being asked to remain at home to prevent their exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Also, a lack of access to rural broadband make video requirements unworkable in rural areas. Additionally, the lack of reimbursement threatened to exacerbate rural hospitals' already troubling financial struggles.

After the call, Smith constantly raised this issue in conversations with his colleagues in Congress and members of the Trump administration, urging a rule change to expand care for seniors.

“The coronavirus is putting increased pressure on the entire health care system, but there was already high stress on our rural hospitals and providers before this outbreak began,” said Congressman Smith. “After hearing their concerns about Medicare’s telehealth requirements and reimbursements, I’ve been pressing the Congressional leadership and the White House to loosen these rules and make it easier for our area’s seniors to receive the care they need and deserve. I want to thank President Trump and his administration for listening to my proposals and responding to the needs of our rural communities.”

At President Trump’s direction, on Monday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took historic and unprecedented steps to deliver maximum flexibility to health care providers responding to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to evaluating patients with audio phones only, CMS will now support more than 80 additional services when furnished via telehealth. These include emergency department visits, initial nursing facility and discharge visits, and home visits, which must be provided by a clinician that is allowed to provide telehealth.

Smith has been adamant about the needs of rural communities during the coronavirus outbreak, which is why he’s also been in contact with family businesses, farmers, and veterans in addition to the area’s medical providers. Following those phone calls, he outlined a series of legislative proposals to help cushion the blow to southern Missouri, and other rural communities across the country, while the nation faces the threat of this historic pandemic.

Smith said the President is an ally of rural communities, and the Medicare rule change is just the latest example.

“This recent decision shows just how strong of an ally President Trump and his administration have been for our rural communities,” said Congressman Smith. “Whenever I see the President, he asks me what I’m hearing from the people in southern Missouri and how he can help. I look forward to continuing to share the needs of our friends and neighbors with him and his team as we work together to make our rural communities stronger, more resilient and more prosperous than ever.”


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