The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260) expanded access to telehealth services in Medicare to allow beneficiaries to utilize telehealth for mental health services, including from the beneficiary’s home. However, it included a provision that requires the patient to be seen in person at least once every six months. The Telemental Health Care Access Act — introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tina Smith (D- Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) — would remove this requirement.
The letter states, “In-person requirements on telehealth services create unnecessary barriers to care and can be especially harmful for those seeking mental and behavioral health services. The Health Resources and Services Administration reports a shortage of over 6,500 providers in the mental and behavioral health specialty. The scarcity of providers, particularly in rural and underserved areas makes lifting the in-person requirement even more critical. Those seeking care should not, and in many instances cannot, travel for hours to see an in-person provider.”