Better Medicare Alliance Applauds Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation Supporting Audio-Only Telehealth
Ensuring Parity in Medicare Advantage and PACE for Audio-Only Telehealth Act is critical to securing continuity of care for older and lower-income MA beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic
Washington, D.C. – Better Medicare Alliance, the leading research and advocacy group supporting Medicare Advantage, applauded the bipartisan introduction of H.R. 2166, the Ensuring Parity in Medicare Advantage and PACE for Audio-Only Telehealth Act of 2021.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and supported by a half-dozen bipartisan original cosponsors, would protect continuity of care for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing the use of audio-only telehealth for risk adjustment purposes.
As health care providers transitioned to virtual care over the last year, research from Better Medicare Alliance’s Center for Innovation in Medicare Advantage found that barriers to audio-video telehealth for many beneficiaries remain.
Findings showed 34% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries living under the Federal Poverty Level reported no internet usage at all, with similar findings (33%) for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries ages 85 and older – complicating audio-video telehealth access for many.
“The Ensuring Parity in Medicare Advantage and PACE for Audio-Only Telehealth Act is a sensible, bipartisan, and sorely needed solution that will protect our most vulnerable Medicare Advantage beneficiaries’ ability to access the care they need during this public health crisis,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance. “We know that in-person physician office visits dropped precipitously during the pandemic, and many seniors lack the tools to complete an audio-video telehealth appointment. Medicare Advantage must be equipped to meet beneficiaries where they are by allowing access to care through a simple phone call where appropriate or when beneficiaries lack other technological means. In addition, it is critical that information on health conditions and diagnoses that are obtained via audio-only telehealth be allowed to count for risk adjustment purposes.”
Schwartz continued, “On behalf of our 158 Ally organizations and more than 500,00 grassroots beneficiary advocates, we extend our sincerest gratitude to Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, and their co-sponsors for their leadership in introducing this legislation. We look forward to partnering with them to carry this measure across the finish line in the weeks ahead.”
Rep. Terri Sewell was named by Better Medicare Alliance as a 2020 Medicare Advantage Breakthrough Champion. Rep. Gus Bilirakis was a featured speaker at the 2020 Medicare Advantage Summit, where he touted the importance of audio-only telehealth.
The lawmakers were joined in introducing the bill by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN).