Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra about telehealth access and expanding opportunities for Americans to receive care. Last year, Rep. Steel introduced the Telehealth Expansion Act, bipartisan legislation that would make permanent a waiver created by the CARES Act to allow Americans with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to access telehealth services without first having to meet their deductible.
“For those who cannot afford to pay $7 at the gas pump and drive to their doctors or are a single parent and cannot afford to leave their child at home – virtual care is an important tool in the toolshed that will lower costs and expand access to care. This is why we need permanency in telehealth,” Rep. Steel said. “With this in mind, Secretary Becerra, as you know, 50% of individuals with an HSA living in a zip code where the median income is below $75,000 – does the Administration believe that these families and individuals with High Deductible Health Plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts should have access to first-dollar coverage of telehealth services?”
“Congresswoman, I think we’ve seen the value of telehealth as a result of this pandemic,” said Secretary Becerra. “We are appreciative of the work done in Congress to pass the omnibus bill which gave the five-month extension on some of the authorities to have flexibility with telehealth. We hope you work hard to extend some these authorities permanently.”
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. The waiver expired on December 31, 2021. Rep. Steel advocated for the extension’s inclusion in the funding bill for FY22, which passed last month and included this critical extension of access for millions of Americans. However, the extension is only though the end of 2022.