The Alliance for Connected Care submitted a letter to the Senate Finance Committee providing input into the development of bipartisan legislation to enhance behavioral health and substance use disorder care for all Americans.
Our letter includes recommendations to answer the following questions:
- What policies would encourage greater behavioral health care provider participation in these federal programs? What barriers, particularly with respect to the physician and non-physician workforce, prevent patients from accessing needed behavioral health care services?
- Should federal licensing and scope of practice requirements be modified to reduce barriers for behavioral health care workers seeking to participate in federal health care programs? If so, how?
- What programs, policies, data, or technology are needed to improve patient transitions between levels of care and providers?
- How can Congress craft policies to expand telehealth without exacerbating disparities in access to behavioral health care? How has the expanded scope of Medicare coverage of telehealth for behavioral health services during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted access to care?
- How should audio-only forms of telehealth for mental and behavioral health services be covered and paid for under Medicare, relative to audio-visual forms of telehealth for the same services? Are there specific mental health and behavioral health services for which the visual component of a telehealth visit is particularly important, and for which an audio-only visit would not be appropriate? For which specific mental health and behavioral health services is there no clinically meaningful difference between audio-visual and audio-only formats of telehealth? How does the level of severity of a mental illness impact the appropriateness of a telehealth visit?
- Should Congress make permanent the COVID-19 flexibilities for providing telehealth services for behavioral health care (in addition to flexibilities already provided on a permanent basis in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021)? If so, which services, specifically? What safeguards should be included for beneficiaries and taxpayers?
- What legislative strategies could be used to ensure that care provided via telehealth is high-quality and cost-effective?
- What barriers exist to accessing telehealth services, especially with respect to availability and use of technology required to provide or receive such services?