Connecting Rural Telehealth to the Future Act proposed by Armstrong

Telehealth flexibilities implemented by rural health providers during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic would be extended under a bipartisan bill introduced on May 24 by U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND).

“I am proud to support this legislation, which will prevent unnecessary regulatory barriers from hampering the advancement and implementation of telehealth services,” Rep. Armstrong said on May 25.

The Connecting Rural Telehealth to the Future Act, H.R. 7876, which Rep. Armstrong introduced alongside U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), would extend certain telehealth flexibilities for two years, giving patients and providers certainty while Congress works to make them permanent, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“One positive advancement made during the pandemic is the increased access to telehealth,” said Rep. Armstrong. “In rural states like North Dakota, patients often struggle to get the care they need due to a variety of factors, one being distance to the nearest provider.”

If enacted, H.R. 7876 would extend all temporary telehealth provisions included in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus package through Dec. 31, 2024; permanently allow the use of audio-only technologies when providers are evaluating or managing patient health or providing behavioral health services; restore Rural Health Clinic and Federally Qualified Health Clinic reimbursements for telehealth services to their normal reimbursement methods; and extend the allowance for Critical Access Hospitals to directly bill for telehealth services, the summary says.

H.R. 7876 has garnered support from the National Association of Community Health Centers, the Critical Access Hospitals Coalition, the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, and the National Rural Health Association. 

Both the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering the measure.