Steel, Daines work to expand telehealth with new legislation

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) on March 28 led a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would permanently allow Americans with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to access telehealth services without first having to meet their deductible.

“Telehealth helps ensure Montanans in every corner of our state have access to the care they need,” said Sen. Daines. “Especially in rural states like Montana, we should be working to expand telehealth, not cut access when folks have come to depend on these resources.”

“I am proud to lead this common-sense bipartisan measure to permanently expand access to telemedicine,” Rep. Steel said on Tuesday.

Specifically, the Telehealth Expansion Act, H.R. 1843/S. 1001, would make permanent a waiver under the enacted CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, that permits HSA-qualified, high-deductible health plans to cover telehealth services before reaching the deductible, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. Without action by Congress, the policy is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2024.

Rep. Steel sponsored H.R. 1843 alongside three original cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Susie Lee (D-NV), while Sen. Daines sponsored S. 1001 with original cosponsor U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became an important tool used by families, seniors, and rural communities to access quality, affordable health care,” said Rep. Steel. “The expiration of the CARES Act provision will negatively impact more than 32 million HSA enrollees and twenty percent of the American workforce, who currently enjoy the option to utilize telehealth.”

If enacted, the bill also would allow individuals to choose and purchase the use of telehealth services outside their high-deductible health plan without impacting their eligibility for an HSA, the summary says.

The Telehealth Expansion Act is endorsed by a multitude of supporters, including the Orange County (CA) Business Council, the Alliance for Connected Care, the American Benefits Council, the American Telemedicine Association, the Corporate Health Care Coalition, the Health Innovation Alliance, the National Retail Federation, the National Taxpayers Union, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, among many others.