Scott, Schatz Lead Fight to Strengthen American Healthcare

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) led six of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Telehealth Modernization Act, which updates coverage restrictions that have long prevented life-saving telehealth services for many of the nation’s roughly 65 million Medicare beneficiaries. With telehealth flexibilities set to expire at the end of 2024, this legislation is urgently needed to protect access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, especially patients in rural communities.

Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.-01) is leading companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“During the pandemic, telehealth was one of the few bright spots that helped us through one of the darkest times in our nation’s history,” said Senator Scott. “In South Carolina, and around the country, we met hard times with revolutionary solutions, and it’s time we updated our laws to make sure we can always meet patients where they are. It must be a priority for Congress to pass this commonsense legislation and make sure our nation is ready for the challenges of tomorrow.”

“Telehealth has been a critical lifeline for millions of people who have come to rely on it. But we need to act now to make sure that the temporary Medicare expansions for telehealth coverage are made permanent,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill works hand-in-hand with the CONNECT for Health Act by removing unnecessary barriers in Medicare and makes it easier for more beneficiaries to get the care they need through telehealth.”

“Telehealth is a vital part of our health care system, and we must ensure that it is available to patients who need it. By permanently extending telehealth flexibilities for Medicare patients, we are making health care more accessible for seniors, regardless of their physical location,” said Representative Carter. “As a pharmacist, one of my top priorities has been increasing the accessibility and quality of health care; this bill does both, in a bipartisan manner, and paves the way for more patients and providers to use this technology.”

The Telehealth Modernization Act is supported by American Telemedicine Association, Consumer Technology Association, Health Innovation Alliance, Alliance for Connected Care, The Partnership to Advance Virtual Care, HIMSS, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, National Rural Health Association, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, Federation of American Hospitals, American Heart Association, National Organization for Rare Disorders, The Alliance for Aging Research, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, Society of General Internal Medicine, and Endocrine Society.

This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Angus King (I-Maine).


Senator Scott is a recipient of the 2021 National Telehealth Champion Telehealth Award during the 9th Annual Telehealth Summit of South Carolina.

Senator Scott’s leadership on telehealth issues, in addition to championing the Telehealth Modernization Act, includes cosponsoring and writing two letters of support for central provisions in the CONNECT for Health Act, and discussing the need for expanded telehealth access following the pandemic.

Senator Scott’s current efforts to champion the Telehealth Modernization Act come as he urges Congress to face the healthcare realities of a post-COVID world.

While Medicare access gaps predated the pandemic, the spread of COVID-19 highlighted the urgency of updating telehealth coverage rules, prompting Congress to provide authority for temporary emergency waivers designed to ensure safe access to care for seniors and other vulnerable populations. As the pandemic raged, Medicare beneficiaries turned to telehealth services to minimize exposure risk and receive medically necessary care in safe and accessible settings. In April 2020, more than two-fifths (43.5%) of Medicare FFS primary care visits were provided through telehealth, and from mid-March through early July of that year, more than 10.1 million beneficiaries accessed telehealth services

Without further congressional action, these emergency flexibilities will expire at the end of this year, creating chaos for the tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries, including many who have come to rely on telehealth for critically needed care.