featured graphic for Michelle Steel, Congresswoman for California’s 48th District, after COVID-19

What they’re saying: Healthcare community applauds telehealth extension championed by Rep. Steel

Following passage of last week’s funding bill that included an extension of telehealth access, members of the healthcare community voiced their support for Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and Rep. Susie Lee’s (D-NV) bipartisan Telehealth Expansion Act, which would make this expansion permanent. The bill included an extension through the end of 2022 for those who have a High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) in combination with a Health Savings Account (HSA). The CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, allowed HSA-qualified high-deductible health plans to cover telehealth services before reaching the deductible, and allowed individuals to choose and purchase the use of telehealth services outside their high-deductible health plan, without impacting their eligibility for an HSA. This expired on December 31, 2021. This expiration meant that individuals and families had to reach their deductible – often thousands of dollars – before being able to access telehealth care. To prevent these additional costs for individuals and families, the Telehealth Expansion Act would make this provision in the CARES Act permanent, which would allow Americans with HSAs to access telehealth services without first having to meet their deductible.

Here’s a look at some of the support for this critical legislation from members of the healthcare community:
“It is a win for patients and the healthcare system that the congressional omnibus spending bill will extend the safe harbor for patients with high-deductible health plans to continue receiving telehealth services. Over 50 percent of employees who receive private insurance are in these plans. This extension will allow these patients continued access to high-quality, low-cost care. It remains essential that Congress enact legislation creating permanent access to critical telehealth services and we applaud Congresswoman Steel and her colleagues for their leadership on this critical matter,” said Mary R. Grealy, President, Healthcare Leadership Council.

“The Alliance to Fight for Health Care commends Congress for working to keep telehealth—particularly, telemental health— services affordable for workers by extending the CARES Act telehealth flexibility in their Omnibus funding package. We look forward to seeing this provision enacted to give workers and their families the peace of mind that they can seek the telemental health care they need. As data about the importance of this flexibility mounts, we urge Congress to make this policy permanent,” said the Alliance to Fight for Health Care.

“Telehealth has revolutionized how individuals manage their health and wellness, expanding access to high-quality care and improving outcomes. The reinstatement of the safe harbor for telehealth services for individuals on high-deductible health plans is an important step to help ensure all Americans have affordable access to 21st century care, when and where it is most needed. As part of our continued commitment to empowering greater health equity, we are proud to stand with patients and other health leaders in support of this commonsense policy,” said Claudia Duck Tucker, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Teladoc Health.

“The Alliance applauds Congress for including a provision in the FY2022 appropriations bill to reinstate the bipartisan HDHP-HSA telehealth flexibility that enabled employers to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services throughout the pandemic. This provision was critical to expanding access to care and reducing out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans, and its expiration in December impacted this access in significant ways. We are pleased to see Congress take steps to reinstate this important flexibility through the end of 2022 and look forward to working with Congress on a permanent fix,” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care.

“The American Benefits Council strongly supports the provision in the Omnibus spending bill renewing the ability for telehealth to be provided more readily in high-deductible health plans, and we applaud Representatives Steel and Lee for their bipartisan leadership,” said Ilyse Schuman, Senior Vice President, Health Policy, for the American Benefits Council. “The benefits of telehealth, including expanding access to mental health care, are significant and should extend beyond the pandemic. We will continue to advocate for permanent flexibility to allow HSA-eligible plans to cover telehealth on a pre-deductible basis.”

“Due to the tireless work of Representative Steel and her bipartisan cosponsors, the omnibus spending bill includes an extension from April through the end of the year for telehealth provisions signed into law as part of the CARES Act. Millions of Americans insured with Health Savings Account qualified insurance can now enjoy more cost-efficient access to this critical health benefit. Importantly, telehealth benefits, an indispensable pandemic strategy, address many of the access and equity issues associated with women’s health and with both marginalized communities and communities of color. We look forward to working with Representatives Steel and Lee to make this benefit permanent,” said Kevin McKechnie, Executive Director of the American Bankers Association’s Health Savings Account Council.

“The Partnership to Advance Virtual Care is pleased the FY 2022 omnibus package includes a temporary reinstatement of the safe harbor allowing for first-dollar coverage of telehealth services for those with HSA-eligible HDHPs. We look forward to continuing to work with Representative Steel and other congressional supporters to further extend this provision, to ensure patients do not lose access to important primary care and behavioral health services through telehealth,” said Mara McDermott, Executive Director of the Partnership to Advance Virtual Care.

“It’s common sense that seniors should have access to health care through telehealth after the end of the pandemic, and Congress is making the right call by extending these policies. Health Innovation Alliance is particularly pleased to see that HSAs can continue to be used to cover telehealth services through 2022,” said Joel White, Executive Director of the Health Innovation Alliance. “We look forward to working with Congress to make sure these policies become permanent and that outdated statutory language and antiquated thinking do not stand in the way of access to care and modernization.”

“Congress empowered millions of families with high-deductible plans to temporarily access life-saving telehealth services throughout this pandemic. Reinstating these expired flexibilities is critical for ensuring continued access to care. We commend lawmakers, such as Rep. Michelle Steel, for championing this issue and applaud the temporary extension of pre-deductible telehealth coverage. We hope lawmakers will work to make this and other life-saving flexibilities permanent,” said Charlie Katebi, Senior Policy Analyst, Americans for Prosperity.

This article was released by the Office of Congresswoman Michelle Steel.