Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

It is not a coincidence that two symbolic healthcare policy events took place this week.

I’m talking about the Senate’s confirmation of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the introduction of H.R. 3447, the Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act. The latter would allow for Medicare coverage of audio-only telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Brooks-LaSure is stepping into CMS at a time when Congress and regulators are making key decisions about healthcare in the post-pandemic world. She will help lead home care and other providers through this major period of transition.

Among those big decisions are how to handle telehealth, which perhaps literally and figuratively saved lives during the period of lockdown. Just last week the House introduced H.R. 3371, the Home Health Emergency Access to Telehealth Act (HEAT), which would provide reimbursement for telehealth services in the Medicare Home Health benefit during an emergency period.

Brooks-LaSure also will preside over an agency that will be navigating the likely growth of hospital-at-home, a major CMS initiative that, like telehealth, flourished thanks to the pandemic. There is no question that pressure is building on lawmakers to extend the Hospitals Without Walls program, as the executive director of Moving Health Home told McKnight’s Home Care Daily this week.

Of course, other issues hang in the balance. These include a possible expansion of Medicaid home- and community-based services, the growth of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model, and the possibility of Medicare-covered skilled nursing facility-level care at home. Legislation regarding the latter may be introduced in the coming days.

Welcome aboard, Chiquita. You should have more than enough to keep you busy.  

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Follow her @LizaBerger19 and email her at [email protected]