On July 28, 2022, the Senate Committee on Appropriations released the Report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations, as well as the bill text making appropriations for these departments for FY2023. The report includes specific instructions with respect to the appropriated amounts. The House previously released its Report for the Departments of Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies for FY2023 on June 29, 2022.
Final text merging the House and Senate appropriations provisions will be available later this year. Below is a topline of the key telehealth provisions included in the Senate report language. For reference, a list of the notable telehealth provisions included in the House report language can be found here.
HHS Office of the Secretary
- Ensuring Equity in Telehealth Policies. —The COVID–19 pandemic has exposed an array of related health disparities, including a difference in severity and outcomes by race and ethnicity; geographic location; and socioeconomic status. The rapid expansion of telemedicine has been an effective tool in mitigating barriers to care during the pandemic. The Committee recognizes that focusing on health equity when considering telehealth policies is imperative to ensuring the needs of underserved communities are met. Therefore, the Committee directs HHS to prioritize equity as a consideration when making decisions on telehealth policy during and after the COVID–19 public health emergency and to report to Congress within 60 days after the end of the public health emergency how it is using telehealth to sustain equitable access.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Opioid Use in Rural Communities. — The Committee encourages SAMHSA to support initiatives to advance opioid use prevention, treatment, and recovery objectives, including by improving access through telehealth.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Telehealth. — The Committee provides $40,050,000, an increase of $5,000,000, for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth [OAT], which promotes the effective use of technologies to improve access to health services for people who are isolated from health care and to provide distance education for health professionals. The Committee strongly supports OAT and their mission to expand high quality medical care to rural communities that do not have adequate access to medical providers including many medical specialties.
- Telehealth Centers of Excellence. — The Committee provides $8,500,000 for the Centers to continue to validate technologies and reimbursement mechanisms, establish training protocols, and develop comprehensive templates for States to integrate telehealth into their State health provider networks. The Centers identify best practices, serve as national training resources and test the efficacy of different telehealth clinical applications. The Centers serve to promote the adoption of telehealth programs across the country by validating technology, establishing training protocols and by providing a comprehensive template for States to integrate telehealth into their State health provider network. Funding should serve to promote the adoption of telehealth services nationwide and help address the access to care issue faced by rural America.
- Pediatric Mental Health Care Access. — The Committee provides $11,000,000 for expanding access to behavioral health services in pediatric primary care by supporting the development of pediatric mental healthcare telehealth access programs.
Other Notable Provisions
- CDC – Sexually Transmitted Infections. — The Committee includes an increase of $15,000,000 to combat the high incidence of STIs. The Committee encourages the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work with other agencies, as appropriate, to develop innovative approaches including the use of telehealth platforms and at home specimen collection to increase screening, treatment, and education to curb the spread of STIs in vulnerable populations.
- AHRQ – Center for Primary Care Research. — The Committee includes $5,000,000, an increase of $3,000,000 over fiscal year 2022, for the Center for Primary Care Research, which supports primary care clinical research and dissemination including translating science into patient care, better organizing health care to meet patient and population needs, evaluating innovations to provide the best health care to patients, and engaging patients, communities, and practices to improve health. The center should also help coordinate and inform AHRQ’s efforts in research areas such as multiple chronic conditions, symptom syndromes, behavioral and social health integration, and telehealth in primary care.