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PA Senators Advance Bill to Retain COVID-19 Waivers, Re-Introduce Telehealth Proposal

May 24, 2021

Today, Pennsylvania Senate lawmakers advanced legislation that would retain state COVID-19 health care flexibilities and waivers after the official end of the state disaster declaration and re-introduced comprehensive telemedicine legislation.

This morning, the Senate Health & Human Service Committee approved Senate Bill 671 by a 9-1 vote. The proposal, co-sponsored by Senator Scott E. Hutchinson (R-Venango) and Senator Michele Brooks (R-Crawford), would ensure Pennsylvania’s health care community can access the COVID-19 regulatory waivers and flexibilities for one year after the pandemic ends.

Approved during the outset of the pandemic, the COVID-19 administrative waivers have increased access to telehealth, supported the health care work force, and ensured patient access to timely care. Hutchinson said the bill would help the health care community “avoid chaos” after the emergency declaration ends. Lawmakers are considering a similar proposal in the House.

“We don’t want our health care industry to fall off a cliff,” Hutchinson said. “They need predictability of what the rules are going to be.”

HAP supports Senate Bill 671, which now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The proposal would:

  • Provide a one-year extension of the administrative waivers and flexibilities after the state’s disaster emergency declaration ends
  • Require the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to issue a report recommending which temporary waivers and flexibilities should be made permanent
  • Establish an advisory committee from the health care community to provide feedback to the JSGC

Last month, representatives from HAP and the Pennsylvania health care community testified before House lawmakers about the benefits of the state’s COVID-19 administrative flexibilities and the need for a coordinated transition after the pandemic ends.

HAP continues to advocate for legislation that supports telehealth and other initiatives that have improved access to care during the pandemic. Today, Senate lawmakers also re-introduced Senate Bill 705, which clarifies requirements for telehealth providers and insurers and authorizes the regulation of telehealth by professional licensing boards.

HAP will continue to monitor the progress of the proposals and provide updates to members. For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.




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