Senate panel wants to scrap in-person requirement for virtual mental health

OASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators working on mental health policy has proposed removing a requirement that would have restricted seniors’ access to services via telehealth, they announced Thursday.

Congress made access to telehealth mental health services permanent for seniors in 2020, but there was a catch — seniors had to have seen the same provider in person in the previous six months. Technically, this requirement has not yet come into force as emergency regulations are still in place due to the pandemic, but if implemented, it could significantly limit older adults’ options for health care services. Mental Health.

Relaxing in-person visit requirements would be good news for some virtual-only telehealth businesses that have gained a foothold during the pandemic. These companies pushed for more permissive rules for telehealth coverage even after the emergency phase of the pandemic ended.

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Senators tasked with evaluating telehealth policy revealed a draft of their plans on Thursday, which also includes preserving audio-only mental health coverage in Medicare, requiring insurance plans to release public information about entitlements. beneficiaries to access telehealth and giving states more flexibility to use Children’s Health Insurance Program funding for school mental health services.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Thune (RN.D.) led the effort.

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The proposal would also require reporting on telehealth use, which has been a point of contention as lawmakers have debated safeguards around telehealth use.

The telehealth policy is the product of one of the many task forces of the Senate Finance Committee. Other groups focus on strengthening the mental health workforce, improving care coordination and ensuring parity in mental health coverage policies. The House of Representatives also held hearings on the mental health policy of this Congress.

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