The Center Square) – Temporary regulatory relief for some health care workers during the pandemic has now become permanent, removing a burden of uncertainty and giving health groups more flexibility to care for patients.
The legislation gives home health care workers who aren’t physicians the ability to order or oversee orders for home health care and allows supervisory visits by registered nurses to be virtual.
The expansion of telehealth services has grown since the pandemic, as The Center Square has previously reported. Federal regulations for home health care have already approved virtual supervisory visits as an option, noting that it’s an option for when in-person visits cannot be done.
“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic many policies and waivers were implemented to ensure Pennsylvanians have continued access to services,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release. “Those policies and waivers continue to support individuals accessing services today and should be preserved. I’m happy to sign this bill into law so Pennsylvanians continue to receive the quality care they deserve.”
The pandemic spurred an emergency expansion of telehealth that had previously received less attention for state and federal leaders. When the services proved popular with health care workers and patients, Democrats and Republicans have both pushed to make the changes permanent.
“Many health care-specific waivers are still in place today to ensure continued access to quality care,” Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Williamsport, wrote in a legislative memo as the bill’s sponsor. “The past two years have taught us that some of these flexibilities should stay in place permanently as we have learned that the regulations themselves are outdated.”
The CDC estimates that Pennsylvania had 265,600 people using home health care services and about 400 home health agencies in 2016, the latest data available. With the commonwealth’s population aging, those figures are likely to grow.