Bipartisan House members introduced a bill, known as the Health Care at Home Act (H.R. 6644), which would ensure all medically necessary benefits in Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans are covered via telehealth for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The bill would equate traditional face-to-face physician visits with telemedicine visits, including audio-only visits. It would also bar restrictions on which conditions can be managed remotely, and require all cost sharing for COVID-19-related treatment can be waived.
The bill was introduced to address a potential gap in coverage benefits. Even though the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has taken important steps to ease regulatory barriers to telehealth and also enforce pay parity for telehealth visits during the pandemic, private payers, including employer-provided ERISA health plans, have not necessarily followed suit. This legislation would change that, enabling greater access to telehealth for patients to get the care they need without needless exposure to potential infection.
The American Medical Association supports the proposed legislation, which is in line with the guidance that Medicare already has issued to providers. The AMA seeks to ensure that patients have access to diagnoses and treatments despite the challenges to office appointments at this time. By requiring plans to cover telehealth visits the same way they cover in-person visits, patients can still see their doctors without risking unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. There is no immediate expectation that the bill will proceed. "Bill requires ERISA plans to cover telehealth during COVID-19" www.ama-assn.org (Apr. 30, 2020).