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Congresswoman’s Telehealth Bill Combines 9 Other Pieces of Legislation

US Rep. Ann Wagner's Telehealth Act pulls together nine telehealth bills introduced over the past year - all by Republicans - in a bid to give lawmakers one overarching piece of connected health legislation

Published Wednesday, August 19, 2020
by Eric Wicklund

 - A Missouri Congresswoman has introduced a telehealth bill that combines nine other connected health bills into one piece of legislation.

The Telehealth Act (HR 7992), sponsored by US Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), aims to give lawmakers a more manageable - albeit cherry-picked - plan to expand telehealth access and coverage, including several emergency provisions introduced over the last few months to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has mandated we build a more accountable and responsive health care system to address the significant challenges facing our nation during this crisis,” Wagner said in a press release. “Missourians need to speak to their doctors on their terms, and this legislation makes health care more accessible by permanently expanding telehealth services and providing options and more affordable coverage for families across the country.”

Wagner, chair of the Republican-founded House Suburban Caucus, made clear in her announcement that the bills were all favored by her party, a sharp turn from recent telehealth bills that have sought to stress bipartisan cooperation.

“This patient-centered legislation bridges several Republican health care priorities designed to improve access to telehealth services so patients, especially during the ongoing pandemic, can manage their personal health safely and effectively,” she said in her press release.

The bill – text for which was not yet available – pulls together several bills filed over the past year.

Those included in the Telehealth Act are:

The Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act (HR 7338)introduced in June by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), David Kustoff (R-TN) and Jason Smith (R-MO), aims to “continue the telehealth policies implemented by the Trump Administration and through the CARES Act, while advancing access to emerging technology for seniors especially in rural areas;”

The EASE Behavioral Health Services Act (HR 5473), introduced in December 2019 by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), aims to expand access to telemental health services by expanding Medicare and Medicaid coverage and bypassing Medicare’s geographic restrictions on telehealth services;

The Telemedicine Everywhere Lifting Everyone’s Healthcare Experience and Long Term Health (TELEHEALTH) HSA Act (S 4039), introduced in June by Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), would make permanent the preferred treatment of telehealth and other remote care services in health savings accounts;

The VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act (HR 3228)introduced in June 2019 by Rep. Earl “Buddy Carter (R-GA), would amend the 2018 VA Mission Act to allow post-graduate healthcare employees and VA healthcare trainees to use connected health platforms, under the supervision of VA-sanctioned care providers, to treat veterans (a companion bill was filed in May by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Martha McSally (R-AZ);

The Telehealth Across State Lines Act (HR 4900), introduced in October 2019 by Rep. David Roe (R-TN), would create a uniform standard of nationwide best practices for multi-state telehealth programs, incentivize telehealth expansion and establish a five-year grant program to ex[and telehealth in rural parts of the country;

The Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act (S 4103)introduced in June by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would make permanent certain emergency actions passed during the coronavirus pandemic to boost telehealth access for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, including Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) treatment;

The KEEP Telehealth Options Act (HR 7233)introduced in June by Reps. Troy Balderson (R-OH) and Cindy Axne (D-IA), calls on the Health and Human Services Department and Government Accountability Office to conduct separate studies of telehealth use and outcomes during the ongoing emergency;

The Enhancing Preparedness Through Telehealth Act (S 3988), introduced in June by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would direct HHS to inventory telehealth programs across the country every five years to learn how telehealth is being used and how it can be used more effectively during emergencies: and

The HEALTH Act (HR 7187), introduced in June by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), would make permanent Medicare coverage for telehealth services provided at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHC).

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