February 7, 2022
House Ways & Means health panel examines medicare’s 24-month waiting period, priority of extending telehealth waivers
Witnesses describe ordeals of ‘long COVID,’ seek equity for patients with disabilities
The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on February 5 regarding “Bridging Health Equity Gaps for People with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions.” Materials from the hearing are posted here. The witnesses were:
The hearing examined health access challenges faced by people with disabilities, including long waiting periods for Medicare coverage. The hearing also focused on the growing number of COVID-19 “long haulers” who are struggling to qualify for benefits in the wake of a pandemic that has driven the largest new entrant into the disability community in modern history, according to disability advocates. The hearing served partly as a venue for Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) to introduce his Stop the Wait Act (HR 6583), sponsored with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), which would end the 24-month waiting period for Medicare for people with serious disabilities. The bill was originally introduced in 2019. Under current law, people whose eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has already been determined cannot receive compensation for an additional five months after the onset of their disability, and then must wait an additional 24 months after the start of their disability payments to receive health insurance through Medicare. The bill would direct the Social Security Administration to phase out the five-month waiting period to receive SSDI benefits and allow those who are uninsured or unable to afford health insurance to immediately receive Medicare coverage.
The hearing also focused on witnesses’ positive experiences with telehealth as a way to improve access to health care, including Chairman Doggett’s bill (HR 6202) to extend the telemedicine options that were permitted with emergency waivers due to the pandemic, but which will expire at the end of the public health emergency (PHE). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the PHE through March, but policymakers and health care providers are concerned that telemedicine could be severely limited after the end of the PHE if not protected by Congress. Doggett said the telehealth coverage expansion during the pandemic has “really transformed health care delivery… For patients with disabilities, this has removed transportation barriers, enabled easier access to specialists and helped individuals remain safe during the pandemic.”
Additional information is also available in the attached Tax Alert.
Ways & Means health subcommittee hearing