Reed appreciates AARP support for bipartisan bill to extend telehealth services under Medicare

AARP this week put substantial support behind bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) that would increase Medicare-covered services for mental health care through telemedicine.

“On behalf of AARP and its nearly 38 million members in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, we are pleased to support the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act, which would make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to receive mental health care,” wrote David Certner, legislative counsel and legislative policy director of government affairs at AARP, in a March 26 letter sent to Rep. Reed and bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

H.R. 1301, which the pair introduced on Feb. 15, would amend the Social Security Act to provide coverage under the Medicare program for certain mental health telehealth services, according to the text of the bill.

“Just as we see a primary care doctor every year, it is important we have a ‘check-up’ on the mind as well,” Rep. Reed said on Tuesday. “We care about the mental health needs of people and want to ensure they have better access to the care they need in areas where doctors are scarce through the most updated technology available.”

“We appreciate this support from our friends at the AARP,” added the congressman.

AARP’s Certner wrote that roughly 1-in-5 older Americans suffer a mental disorder, a number that the nonprofit, nonpartisan association thinks will increase as the Medicare population continues growing.

“This population is inadequately served by our health care system,” according to Certner’s letter. “Your bill improves access to care by making it easier for people who may not live near a mental health professional to get the support they need.”

According to Rep. Reed, more than 3.6 million people a year miss or delay healthcare due to a lack of transportation to their physician. That’s not a consideration people would have to worry about under telemedicine, which also enables patients to reduce time off from work and decrease time sitting in traffic, according to his statement.

“AARP believes mental health is a fundamental component of overall health. Mental illness affects people of all ages and incomes and can be as debilitating as any other major medical illness,” wrote Certner. “Your bill would allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive mental health treatment via telehealth by removing the originating site requirements for certain services.”

H.R. 1301 is under consideration by both the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.