Telemental Healthcare Entry Act would repeal in-person service necessities

A bipartisan group of senators this week launched the Telemental Healthcare Entry Act of 2021, geared towards decreasing hurdles to offering digital behavioral well being companies.  

The invoice, launched by Sens. Invoice Cassidy, R-La., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and John Thune, R-S.D., would take away the statutory requirement that Medicare beneficiaries be seen in individual inside six months of receiving psychological well being companies via telehealth.

“Over the pandemic, we’ve seen an elevated want for telehealth companies, whether or not it’s for substance use problems, bodily illnesses or psychological well being points,” mentioned Cassidy in a press release.

“Medicare sufferers deserve direct entry to telemental well being companies, and this invoice removes boundaries, to make this potential,” he mentioned.  


Digital behavioral well being has been notably profitable in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with demand ratcheting up amidst the disaster.  

As a press assertion from Cassidy’s workplace notes, the end-of-year package deal handed by Congress this previous yr allowed Medicare behavioral well being sufferers to be handled of their house and different websites for psychological well being companies.  

Nevertheless, it enacted an in-person requirement for such sufferers earlier than they might obtain telemental care.  

The laws proposed this week would get rid of that requirement, in addition to calling for a research and report on utilization of psychological well being companies supplied by way of telehealth to be submitted to Congress no later than one yr after the tip of the general public well being emergency.    

“Through the pandemic, telehealth helped [ease] People’ fears by permitting them to keep away from the danger of visiting a hospital or clinic,” mentioned Smith.  

“Now we’ve got the chance to construct on this success by passing our bipartisan invoice to verify Medicare sufferers are capable of entry telemental well being companies with out further boundaries,” she mentioned.  

Advocates cheered the invoice, calling it “essential.”   

“The ATA strongly opposes statutory in-person necessities as they create arbitrary and clinically unsupported boundaries to accessing reasonably priced, high quality healthcare,” mentioned Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Affiliation, in a press release.

“Necessities similar to these may negatively impression these in underserved communities who might not be capable of have an in-person examination,” she continued.  

“Passing this laws, and guaranteeing this pointless requirement isn’t repeated for different companies, together with different items of laws that make the telehealth waivers everlasting, couldn’t be a better precedence for the ATA and our members,” she added.   

“The American Basis for Suicide Prevention commends Senators Invoice Cassidy, Tina Smith, Ben Cardin and John Thune for guaranteeing expansions of telemental well being … work to encourage help-seeking for older adults, moderately than create boundaries to well timed psychological well being care,” mentioned Laurel Stine, senior vp for public coverage for the American Basis for Suicide Prevention.  


The previous few months have seen a flurry of pro-telehealth laws in Congress, as elected officers appear to acknowledge the looming “telehealth cliff” that will reinstate at the moment relaxed laws.  

Simply this previous week, a bipartisan group of senators additionally launched the Defending Rural Telehealth Entry Act, geared toward guaranteeing underserved neighborhood well being suppliers are capable of proceed accessing digital care past the tip of the general public well being emergency.  

That invoice adopted the much-ballyhooed CONNECT for Well being Act, which might additionally develop telehealth entry and which had the help of half the Senate.  


“The previous yr and a half has taken an immense toll on the psychological well being of hundreds of thousands of People,” mentioned Thune in a press release. “It has confirmed that telemental well being companies are much more essential than we had beforehand imagined.

“We should be certain that these doubtlessly lifesaving companies proceed to be accessible after the pandemic ends,” he added.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT Information.

Twitter: @kjercich

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Healthcare IT Information is a HIMSS Media publication.

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