U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), along with three other U.S senators, introduced the bipartisan Telemental Health Care Access Act of 2021 that would remove barriers to telemental health services for Medicare beneficiaries.
“Over the pandemic, we’ve seen an increased need for telehealth services whether it’s for substance use disorders, physical ailments or mental health issues,” said Cassidy. “Medicare patients deserve direct access to telemental health services and this bill removes barriers to make this possible.”
"Telemental" is a term that refers to online health services; in other words, the patient gets mental health treatment via Facetime or some other online communication method.
The bill removes the in-person requirement of Medicare beneficiaries being seen within six months of being treated for mental health services through telehealth. Treatment programs can become available in the convenience of their own home.
2020’s end-of-year package permanently expanded access for Medicare patients to be treated in their home and other sites for mental health services. However, there was a requirement that the patient be seen in-person before they could receive telemental services.
This bill removes that requirement so that patients can directly access mental health services via telehealth.
“The ATA is very proud to collaborate with our Senate champions and enthusiastically endorse this important bill,” said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association. “This is a major step forward for and we will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that telehealth becomes a permanent treatment modality in healthcare delivery.”