US senators outline 5 ways to expand mental health telemedicine

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is calling for an expansion of mental health telemedicine, which has proliferated in use during the COVID-19 crisis.

"The pandemic made clear that telehealth is a game-changer, particularly so Americans can get mental health care when they need it," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a May 26 news release.

The committee released a legislative discussion draft May 26 with proposals to:

1. Remove Medicare's in-person requirement for mental health services.

2. Make telemedicine benefits for mental health more transparent to Medicare beneficiaries.

3. Preserve audio-only mental health care for people on Medicare.

4. Support and promote Medicare and Medicaid provider expansion of telemedicine offerings for mental health.

5. Incentivize states to use their Children's Health Insurance Programs to offer telehealth for mental healthcare in schools.

"Whether for rural communities, urban areas or tribes, telehealth has undoubtedly expanded access in underserved areas, improved care coordination and integration, and provided more privacy to patients to combat stigma," Finance Committee ranking member U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, stated.

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