On Thursday, a bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee Leaders prosed a plan for expanding telehealth access for mental health services.
The committee's plan would eliminate Medicare's in-person visit requirement prior to patients seeking online mental health services. This requirement is not yet being enforced, because of the presence of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), but once the PHE ends, it would limit access to virtual care.
Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was quoted on modernhealthcare.com calling telehealth services during the pandemic a "game-changer", and he, along with ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Josh Thune (R-S.D.) urged stronger legislative action and protections.
A draft of a bill that would provide such expansion of mental telehealth services is available and is currently titled the "Telemental Health Access to Care Act". This legislation would also demand benefit transparency for Medicare members looking for telemental health services, would urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to encourage providers to promote telehealth services, and calls for states to use their Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) to address mental health in schools via telehealth.