On March 28, six US Senators and Congressional representatives proposed a new bill to increase telehealth use through the “Telehealth Expansion Act.” The announcement posted on Congresswoman Michelle Steel’s website identified Representatives Michelle Steel (R-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) as the team that recently proposed the bipartisan and bicameral “Telehealth Expansion Act.” The proposed legislation would make permanent a waiver created by the CARES Act to allow Americans with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to access telehealth services without having to meet their deductible first.
The effort is an attempt to offset some of the financial hardships that will be created by the widespread effects soon to take place by the end of the federal emergency related to the COVID pandemic. Representative Steel commented:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became an important tool used by families, seniors, and rural communities to access quality, affordable health care,” said Steel. “The expiration of the CARES Act provision will negatively impact more than 32 million HSA enrollees and twenty percent of the American workforce, who currently enjoy the option to utilize telehealth. I am proud to lead this commonsense bipartisan measure to permanently expand access to telemedicine.
Signed into law in March 2020, the Cares Act allowed HSA-qualified high-deductible health plans to reimburse for telehealth services before reaching the deductible. It also allowed individuals to choose and purchase the use of telehealth services outside their high-deductible health plan without negatively impacting their HSA eligibility. The newly proposed Telehealth Expansion Act would make the waiver permanent.
Other US Bipartisan Legislative Attempts to Support Telehealth Use
In December 2022, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a 2022 end-of-year spending bill that included a two-year extension of pandemic-era telehealth and hospital-at-home waivers. These flexibilities included eliminating geographic restrictions on originating sites for telehealth services, allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive care regardless of location. It also allows federally qualified health centers and rural health centers to continue providing telehealth services.