DelBene’s Legislation Expanding Access to Mental Health Telemedicine Advances Through Ways & Means Committee
The Ways and Means Committee approved Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s legislation, the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act (H.R. 1301) as part of the BETTER Act (H.R. 3417), a large package of bills that would improve seniors’ access to high quality, affordable health care.
DelBene’s bill would expand access to mental health services through telemedicine for Medicare beneficiaries. Currently, Medicare limits access to telemedicine to certain geographic regions with provider shortages. However, even patients who are eligible to use telemedicine are not permitted to do so from their home. Right now, Medicare requires the patient to be in a qualified “originating site” such as a doctor’s office to connect with the provider of their choice. This bill will allow all Medicare beneficiaries to access mental health services through telemedicine in their own home, regardless of where they live.
“I’m excited this important legislation giving people greater access to mental health telemedicine services was supported by the committee. I’ve spoken to doctors, patients, mental health experts, and affected family members about my bill, and they agree that this measure will increase access for all Medicare beneficiaries. I look forward to this legislation being brought to the House floor for a vote,” said DelBene.
In Washington state, there are 158 areas with a shortage of mental health professionals, but many patients still face challenges accessing care even when they don’t live in health professional shortage areas. More than 3.6 million people each year miss or delay care due to lack of transportation to their physician. Telemedicine allows those patients to take off less time from work and spend less time sitting in traffic.
Rep. DelBene serves on the Ways and Means Committee and is Vice-Chair for Policy of the New Democrat Coalition.