Over 125 organizations are calling on Congress to reinstate a provision that would permit employers and health plans to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services for those with high-deductible health plans and Health Savings Accounts (HDHP-HSAs).
Last week, the Alliance for Connected Care convened a letter to Congressional leaders, signed by a mix of organizations including the American Telemedicine Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, AMGA, LifePoint Health, CVS Health, and Teladoc Health. The letter urged the leaders to reinstate the telehealth safe harbor flexibility enacted in the CARES Act; the flexibility had expired on December 31st, but with the Omicron variant surge across the country, the organizations believe it needs to be reinstated. Without the flexibility, Americans with HDHP-HSAs are required to meet minimum deductibles before telehealth costs can be covered by their employer or health plan. However, the flexibility allows employers and health plans to provide coverage for telehealth services without forcing individuals to meet the deductible. The letter stated, “The ability to offer pre-deductible telehealth services for employees is a meaningful expansion of health care access for 32 million Americans.”
According to a 2021 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 96 percent of employers adopted pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services due to the telehealth safe harbor provision. However, this pandemic-era policy has since expired, severely impacting access to virtual care services for millions of Americans. To address this issue, bills have been presented to the US Senate and House, such as the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021 and the Primary and Virtual Care Affordability Act, which would extend the CARES Act authority for employers and health plans to offer pre-deductible telehealth coverage. In a joint letter, multiple organizations have urged Congress to reinstate the telehealth provision from the CARES Act as soon as possible, noting that plan year 2022 has already begun and millions of people have already selected this form of coverage.
Given the clear benefits of pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services, Congress should act quickly to reinstate the telehealth safe harbor provision from the CARES Act. The provision would provide millions of Americans with access to virtual care services, improving their health and wellbeing. It is essential that Congress take action to ensure that Americans with HDHP-HSAs have the coverage they need to access the healthcare they deserve.