Bipartisan legislation would broaden telehealth benefits for employees

The House of Representatives has drafted a bill that would provide new virtual care options for American employees.

WHY IT MATTERS
The proposed Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act would enable job creators to offer standalone telehealth service programs – not unlike dental and vision plans – in addition to existing health insurance plans.

The legislation was introduced by Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington; Jackie Walorski, R Indiana; Tim Walberg, R-Michigan; and Angie Craig, D-Minnesota. It would expand access to employer-sponsored health benefits by classifying telehealth as an excepted benefit.

Specifically, the bill would amend HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act to allow employees to receive this benefit, maintaining that any standalone telehealth service would remain separate from traditional health plans, rather than as a replacement.

The full text of the act can be read here.

“COVID-19 put a new emphasis on telehealth and showed how impactful and convenient it can be for working families to get care similar to an in-office nurses station,” said DelBene in a statement. “Over the past two years, many employers have begun offering these telehealth services to their workforce.

“Even with many businesses returning to in-person work, we shouldn’t be turning our backs on the benefits of telehealth,” she added. “We’re introducing the Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act so workers can continue receiving this care from the comfort of their homes and on their own schedule.”

THE LARGER TREND
There’s been no shortage of telehealth-related activity on Capitol Hill this past year. Among just some of the recent bills introduced in the Telehealth Extension Act, the CONNECT for Health Act and the Telehealth Modernization Act.

This past month, more than 330 stakeholders lobbied Congress to extend telehealth waivers through 2024.

DelBene’s husband, Kurt, meanwhile, was confirmed in December to be the new chief information officer at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

ON THE RECORD
“As Americans experienced during the pandemic, telehealth can open doors to quality and affordable health care,” said Walorski. “The Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act will allow job creators to expand access to telehealth benefits for all workers, including part-time and seasonal employees, to ensure access to this important resource.”

“Over the past two years, patients and providers alike have come to the conclusion that the benefits of this new and growing service are simply irreplaceable,” added Craig.

“Throughout the pandemic, telehealth has proven to be a vital tool for Americans to receive timely and quality care from their own home,” said Walberg. “For rural communities in particular, telemedicine has helped remove barriers to care, expand access to specialists, and improve health outcomes. I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to protect telehealth benefits for the workers who need them most.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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