WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced legislation that would improve Louisianians’ access to telehealth services. The package of bills would raise reimbursement levels for health care professionals conducting virtual visits, end a regulation that limits access to telehealth services and improve telehealth access in rural areas.
“Telehealth services help Louisiana patients who aren’t always able to make a trip to the doctor. My legislation would support telehealth providers and the people they care for, especially when those Louisianians live in rural areas,” said Kennedy.
Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act
The Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act would allow physicians delivering care during a public health emergency or a major disaster declaration to receive the same compensation for audio-only telehealth visits as they would receive for in-person appointments.
Text of the Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act is available here.
Telehealth HSA Act
The Telehealth Health Savings Account (HSA) Act would allow employers to offer high-deductible health plans that include telehealth services without limiting employees’ ability to use health savings accounts. A current IRS regulation stops employees from making or receiving contributions to HSAs if they hold a high-deductible health plan that waives the deductible for telehealth services. This means that employees holding such high-deductible health plans will often need to pay out of pocket for telehealth services.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act temporarily waived this regulation, and the Telehealth HSA Act would make this waiver permanent.
Text of the Telehealth HSA Act is available here.
EASE Behavioral Health Services Act
The Enhance Access to Support Essential (EASE) Behavioral Health Services Act would allow mental health professionals providing telehealth services through Medicare and Medicaid to be reimbursed at the same levels as mental health professionals conducting in-person visits. This would allow patients to receive care in the comfort of their own homes and reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.
Text of the EASE Behavioral Health Services Act is available here.
Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act
The Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act would expand access to health care by improving remote patient monitoring technology for individuals in rural areas. Remote patient monitoring is a form of telehealth that uses digital technologies and mobile medical devices to gather health data from patients at home and send it to their health care providers. This technology allows health care providers to continuously monitor patients with chronic health problems.
Rural patient monitoring relies on wired or wireless measurement devices such as blood pressure cuffs, biosensors and those measuring blood glucose levels. Some devices provide real-time video interactions between the patient and health care provider. Rural patient monitoring relies on technology that operates at low frequencies, such as 2G cellular connectivity, giving rural Louisianians more reliable access to medical attention.
Text of the Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act is available here.