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Reps. Steel, Lee Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Telehealth Access

November 16, 2021

(November 16, 2021) Washington, DC – TodayReps. Michelle Steel (CA-48) and Susie Lee (NV-3) introduced the Telehealth Expansion Act, legislation that would make permanent a waiver created by the CARES Act to allow Americans with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to access telehealth services without first having to meet their deductible. The CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, allowed HSA-qualified high-deductible health plans to cover telehealth services before reaching the deductible, and allowed individuals to choose and purchase the use of telehealth services outside their high-deductible health plan, without impacting their eligibility for an HSA. This change is valid under CARES until December 31, 2021. The Telehealth Expansion Act would make this change permanent. 

According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, over 50% of individuals with an HSA live in zip codes where the median income is below $75,000 annually. Reaching the deductible threshold of $1,400 / $2,800 can be a financial strain and making this provision permanent will support access to care and provide more clarity for companies during the open enrollment period. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

“Telehealth has been life-changing for so many, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Steel. “Increased access to telehealth has benefited a wide range of Americans, from seniors to high-risk patients, to those in rural areas. Congress must act to ensure that the millions of Americans to who have utilized this provision do not lose their access to telemedicine.”  

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans were able to access health care through telehealth,” said Rep. Lee. “The pandemic pushed Congress to test out telehealth flexibilities that have proven to be effective in expanding access to quality, consistent, and affordable health care. However, these policies are set to expire. We can’t afford to take a step backwards when it comes to expanding access to health care. Instead, we should ensure Nevadans and Americans across the country have every tool to access the health care they need – and that’s just what this bill does.”

“I’m glad to see my House colleagues introduce a bipartisan, companion bill to my Telehealth Expansion Act. Our bill will help ensure patients continue to have access to telehealth services, which are so important for Montanans, especially in our rural communities. Congress must pass our bill before patients lose access,” Senator Daines said.

“The pandemic has taken a huge toll on Nevada families, and I want to make it easier for them to access quality health care,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bill will help families with high deductible health plans get convenient and safe telehealth appointments, including for mental and behavioral health care as we continue to rebuild our economy, and beyond.”

The Telehealth Expansion Act is supported by ABA Health Savings Account Council, Alliance for Connected Care, American Telemedicine Association, Americans for Prosperity, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Business Group on Health, Health Innovation Alliance, Healthcare Leadership Council, Included Health, National Retail Federation, Noom, Partnership for Employer-Sponsored Coverage, Partnership to Advance Virtual Care, the ERISA Industry Committee, and Teladoc Health.

The legislation was introduced with several bipartisan cosponsors, including Rep. Don Bacon (NE-2), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3), Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-4), Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-4), Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).