Shaheen introduces bill to fix gaps in telehealth coverage
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced legislation to assist health care providers delivering telehealth services and ensure patients can continue to access health care from the safety of home amid the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has led to a significant increase in telehealth services for both physical and behavioral health, but gaps in access to telehealth remain. The Health Care at Home Act prohibits restrictions on conditions that can be managed remotely and provides parity for coverage and reimbursement of mental and physical health services furnished through telehealth. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mark Udall (D-NM), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ed Markey (D-MA) also helped introduce the bill.
“As we navigate this crisis, it’s necessary that we make changes along the way to ensure providers can continue to respond to the needs of patients in our communities, including access to mental health care,” said Senator Shaheen. “Americans will continue to need medical attention throughout this crisis, whether it’s COVID-related or not, so we must have practices in place that facilitate these appointments. This legislation fixes the gaps in telehealth coverage that can prevent patients from accessing the mental and physical health care they need. I’ll keep working to expand access to telehealth services as we adapt to and push through this crisis.”
Telephone-based telehealth is vital for New Hampshire’s rural communities that do not have reliable broadband services to facilitate video telehealth. Last week, the Defense Health Agency announced that it would expand TRICARE coverage for telehealth services following Shaheen’s bipartisan efforts with Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ heeded Shaheen’s bipartisan call and updated guidelines to bring Medicare reimbursement for telephone-based health services in line with Medicare reimbursement for video telehealth.