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Congresswoman Steel introduces Bill To Expand Virtual Medical Freedom

Steel is co-sponsoring the bipartisan Telehealth Expansion Act allowing Americans to access more benefits of virtual medicine.

Rep. Michelle Steel introduced new legislation designed to lower the financial burden on patients regarding telehealth services. The Telehealth Expansion Act is a bipartisan bill, and it would “permanently extend the exemption for telehealth services from certain high deductible health plan rules.”

“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 who have utilized this provision do not lose their access to telemedicine.”  

The legislation would create a permanent waiver created by the CARES Act that would permit Americans who have Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to get telehealth services without having to meet their deductible first. The CARES Act allowed HSA-qualified health plans that were high deductible to cover telehealth visits before the deductible was reached; it also said that this would not impact the person’s HSA status. However, this change is only valid until the end of 2021; the new bill would make it permanent. 

Steel, along with other supporters of the bill, claims it would make it easier for patients to utilize telehealth services for rehab, behavioral health, chronic care, and other things.

The Employee Benefits Research Institute reveals that over 50% of individuals with an HSA reside in zip codes that have a median income of below $75,000 (the deductible threshold is $1400/$2800).

The legislation has received support from several medical organizations, including the American Telemedicine Association and the Alliance for Connected Care.

“As we emerge from the public health emergency, permanently extending the HDHP/HSA Telehealth Safe Harbor would allow fully half of American workers and families to continue accessing clinically appropriate telehealth and remote care services for a range of common conditions, without the burden of first meeting a deductible,” American Telemedicine AssociationCEO Ann Mond Johnson said.

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