Letter to Congressional Leaders Stresses Urgency of Impending Expiration of Telehealth Safe Harbor
Washington, DC – October 26, 2021 – Today, more than 70 organizations sent a letter to Congress to urge policymakers to address the impending expiration of the telehealth safe harbor enacted in the CARES Act that enabled employers and insurers to provide pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services for individuals with high-deductible health plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts (HDHP-HSAs). The letter was convened by the Alliance for Connected Care and includes a diverse mix of signers including patient groups, clinician organizations, and employer coalitions.
During the pandemic, Congress took swift action as part of the CARES Act to ensure employees could receive covered telehealth services before their deductible is met by allowing employers to provide pre-deductible coverage for such services for individuals with HDHP-HSAs. This safe harbor is not tied to the public health emergency (PHE), and will expire on December 31, 2021 regardless of how long the PHE lasts if Congress does not act.
The ability to offer pre-deductible telehealth services for employees is a meaningful expansion of health care access for the 35 million Americans with HDHP-HSAs. Congress must act soon to extend the virtual care provisions in the CARES Act for individuals with HDHP-HSAs beyond the current deadline of December 31 2021, especially as we approach open enrollment for plan year 2022.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress enabled employers to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services, expanding access to care and reducing out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans,” said Alliance for Connected Care executive director Krista Drobac. “Congress must act now to ensure individuals with HDHP-HSAs can continue to have ready access to virtual care services before the end of the year when this provision will expire.”
Bipartisan and widely supported legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives incudes language that would extend this access for patients. The Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021 (S. 1704) would permanently extend the CARES Act authority for employers and health plans to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services for individuals with HDHP-HSAs. The Primary and Virtual Care Affordability Act (H.R. 5541) would extend this CARES Act authority through December 31, 2023, and expand this provision to primary care. We strongly urge Congress to take up and consider this legislation before the end of this year, when existing access will end.
To read the full letter, click here or see below: