Healthcare Stakeholders Urge Congress to Retain Telehealth Affordability

In pursuit of broader telehealth affordability, the Alliance to Fight for Health Care organized a letter to Congress that requests an extension of the telehealth provision allowing employers to offer telehealth services pre-deductible to employees with a Health Savings Account (HSA).

The Alliance to Fight for Health Care is a group of businesses, patient advocates, employer organizations, unions, healthcare companies, and other stakeholders that centers its goals around supporting employer-provided health coverage.

With the signatures of 358 stakeholders, including the American Telemedicine Association, One Medical, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the letter urges Congress to extend pre-deductible coverage of telehealth services in its year-end package. 

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The letter highlights the increase in demand for mental healthcare as a key reason to extend the provision.

“Regrettably, this popular provision expires at the end of this year,” the letter states. “Without legislative action, employers will be required to charge employees more to access telehealth services, creating a barrier to care, including telemental health. Unfortunately, more Americans need access to affordable mental and behavioral health services, not less.”

The letter’s signatories also cited the continued provision of telemental healthcare as an important reason to extend the provision.

“Protecting access to affordable telehealth to address mental health care needs is critical,” said James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, in a press release. “People value, and now rely upon, access to affordable telehealth services. With health plans in place for 2023, this provision must be extended before the end of the year. Health care coverage is planned prospectively and is already in place for 2023. It can’t be adjusted retroactively.”

The letter noted that the overall support for affordable telehealth and telemental health is strong.

“Allowing employers and health plans to continue offering these important services pre-deductible improves affordability and expands access,” the letter states.

This letter follows one sent to Congress earlier this year that urged lawmakers to reinstate a provision allowing employers and health plans to provide pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services for those with high-deductible health plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts (HDHP-HSAs). More than 100 organizations signed the letter, including LifePoint Health, CVS Health, and Teladoc Health. 

Similarly, in March, 72 organizations, including the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and the American Psychiatric Association, sent a letter to government agencies requesting continued access to controlled substances through telehealth without requiring initial in-person visits.

The goal of this request was to solidify access to clinically appropriate care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written in September and addressed to the US Senate, another letter from the ATA and the ATA action requested that expanded telehealth access be solidified for two years.

Currently, telehealth flexibilities will be eliminated after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over. The letter noted that extending access to services would be beneficial as providers work toward creating and implementing more permanent regulations.