In a huge win for the ALS community, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded telehealth coverage for speech therapist services for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This victory was made possible through the collaboration of the ALS Association and the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Kathleen Sheehan, Vice President of Public Policy at the ALS Association shared, “These changes will allow speech therapists at ALS clinics and throughout the country to continue treating patients in the safety of their homes and cover services that can be done effectively using telehealth.”
Now there are FIVE critical services available via telehealth for people with ALS including clinical care for swallowing function and evaluations for speech-generating devices. These services are critical to people living with ALS and the day-to-day challenges they face.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine was not widely available because of virtual platform restrictions and insurance barriers. Widespread access to telehealth became an urgent need for those with ALS and other vulnerable groups as the pandemic progressed and clinics closed.
The ALS community, ALS Association and other disease organizations advocated for new guidelines to remove the barriers to telemedicine. Because of this, Texans with ALS were able to access care across the state that was not possible before COVID. But the fight is not over yet.
These guidelines will expire at the end of the current public health emergency, estimated to last through the end of 2021. However, the ALS Association is dedicated to continuing the fight for permanent expansion of these guidelines to provide access to telehealth services post-COVID-19. This is just one of several public policy priorities for 2021.
We have recently seen promising development on Capitol Hill in the progression of this fight. The ALS Association endorsed the Telehealth Modernization Act through written testimony in March. This act would make telehealth access permanent for Medicare beneficiaries. This would not only impact access to remote care, but also access to remote clinical trials in the search for a cure for ALS. Read the full announcement here.