Patient Access

HIMSS Supports Telemental Health Care Access Act

Close up of a father and daughter having a video call with their doctor

The bipartisan H.R.3432 Telemental Health Care Access Act would make significant progress toward expanding access to evidence-based telehealth, ensuring that patients, especially in rural and underserved areas, have access to critical mental and behavioral health services. The bill was reintroduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) on May 16 for the 118th Congress.

“HIMSS is once again proud to support the Telemental Health Care Access Act, and we applaud the Representatives Matsui and Johnson for reintroducing this critical piece of legislation,” said Tom Leary, HIMSS Senior Vice President and Head of Government Relations. “We have long had concerns about the increasing prevalence of mental health disorders in the nation. We are proud to see Congress reprioritize and increase efforts towards mitigating the rise in mental health conditions, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

First introduced in 2021, the bill would remove the statutory requirement that healthcare providers see Medicare beneficiaries in-person within six months of being treated via telehealth for mental and behavioral health services. While Congress permanently removed the originating sight and geographic restrictions for mental health telehealth services, the in-person requirement remains a potential barrier.

Eliminating this arbitrary requirement will ensure that patients can fully leverage telehealth to get the care they need from home. In the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress included provisions that delayed the in-person requirement for telemental services through 2024 but are set to go into effect starting in 2025, if not delayed or permanently removed.

Currently, more than 150 million people live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas, and with a significant increase in mental health challenges across the world since the beginning of pandemic, there is a critical need for a solution. Telehealth and other healthcare technologies have been unduly restricted under Medicare, and removing additional barriers for these valuable tools and services for healthcare providers and patients will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of countless Americans. What's more, a HIMSS November 2020 report showed that telehealth has the ability to drive operational efficiency, reduce care team burden, shape patient engagement and improve quality and safety. Telehealth, particularly for mental health services, played a pivotal role in managing public health and maintaining continuity of care, and ensured the sustainability of health care delivery overall, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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