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New Emergency Telehealth Capacity Bill Has Bipartisan Support

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The Senate is considering S. 3988, a bill that could help the federal government track, maintain and improve the country’s ability to provide health care through telehealth systems.

One part of the proposed “Enhancing Preparedness through Telehealth Act” bill calls for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress every five years on any insurance coverage issues that might affect people’s access to telehealth services in an emergency.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., has introduced the bill with Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.


The main section of the bill would have the HHS secretary inventory the country’s telehealth programs and telehealth infrastructure every five years.

The HHS secretary would have to give Congress a report that would address matters such as the location of networks, the capacity of existing telehealth initiatives to handle an increase in patient volume in a public health emergency, and mechanisms that could help telehealth services expand quickly in response to a public health emergency.

Members of Congress have also introduced three other telehealth bills with bipartisan support.

H.R. 7233 calls for federal officials to report to Congress on efforts to expand access to telehealth services, through Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, during the COVID-19 emergency. That bill was introduced by Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Ohio. It has two Republican cosponsors and one Democratic cosponsor, Rep. Cynthia Axne, D-Iowa.

S. 3998 would make it easier for Medicare to pay for telehealth services for patients getting care from federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics. Sen. Hyde Smith, R-Miss., introduced the bill, with Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, as a cosponsor.

S. 3998 would make it easier for Medicare to pay for mental health and behavioral health services provided through telehealth systems. King introduced that bill with Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., as a cosponsor.

— Read 5 Ways the New Coronavirus May Already Be Affecting U.S. Insurerson ThinkAdvisor.

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