Washington, D.C. — United States of Care released the following statement from CEO and co-founder Natalie Davis on what the year-end Congressional Omnibus bill means for people and for the continuation of pandemic-era flexibilities in our health care system:
“In a divided political climate, it’s always important to acknowledge both parties’ effort and collaboration that goes into legislation that will impact tens of millions of Americans. We’re pleased that Congress has crafted a critical bipartisan compromise that takes concrete steps beyond pandemic-era health care policies and moves us closer to the system that we know people want and need. In line with many of our United Solutions for Care, this bill advances policies that bring us closer to a system that’s affordable, dependable, personalized, and understandable.
On telehealth flexibility, a high priority to increase equitable access to care, the two-year extension through the end of 2024 is a victory for people on Medicare, especially those in rural areas and those with unreliable transportation options. The bill extends the provision of audio-only telehealth services, a major move for improved health equity. We’ve heard from so many people about issues with unreliable broadband access or a lack of access to necessary technology required by telehealth platforms, so allowing audio-only services is a remarkable improvement for people’s virtual care experiences — especially those in rural areas and with lower incomes.
The bill also ensures that many of the changes associated with where people receive virtual care — in their homes or in other community settings — remain in place for another two years. Additional provisions include extending the expansion of the types of providers eligible to furnish telehealth services, telehealth services for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics, and the flexibilities that have eased access to mental health services provided through telehealth.
The bill also includes another people-centered priority: extending Medicaid maternity coverage for a 12 months postpartum to ensure that coverage for needed care continues after birth. While the omnibus does not require states to adopt 12-month postpartum coverage, it does make permanent the ability of states to cover people who have recently given birth. This will benefit communities of color who suffer from disproportionately higher rates of maternal mortality.
Finally, while the bill allows states to begin the process of Medicaid redetermination beginning April 1, it also guarantees 12 months of continuous coverage for kids enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP and establishes guardrails designed to prevent people from losing coverage prematurely, while at the same time paving the way for states to support solutions that provide access to affordable care for people who will no longer qualify for Medicaid. No matter when states begin this process, it is essential that they approach this in a deliberate and equitable way that minimizes coverage disruptions.
While we still have a long way to go to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, dependable, and personalized care that they can understand, we are encouraged by the bipartisan progress made in key areas of our work toward our ultimate goal of a health care system shaped by people-centered policy.”
About United States of Care
United States of Care is a nonpartisan organization committed to ensuring that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.