Letter to Congressional Leaders Supports Standalone Telehealth as an Excepted Benefit, Regardless of Employment Status
WASHINGTON, DC, NOVEMBER 1, 2021 – Today, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), the premier organization working to accelerate the adoption of telehealth, and nearly 50 stakeholders sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to make permanent the current regulatory flexibility that allows telehealth and remote care services to be treated as an excepted benefit for certain employees.
Under current law, when telehealth or remote care services are provided by an employer, the benefit is considered a “group health plan” under ERISA, which triggers a number of mandates. If these mandates are not met, the employer is subject to per-day, per-violation penalties, unless otherwise specified. Neither telehealth nor remote care services are currently included among the excepted benefits under ERISA. This prevents the employer from offering these services to all employees, not just those full-time employees who elect coverage in an employer’s plan.
“As proven during the public health emergency, telehealth and remote care services offer access to high-quality care that provides an essential lifeline to U.S. workers,” said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the ATA. “As a result, telehealth has emerged as a cost-effective solution to ensure working Americans have access to medical care, including behavioral and mental health services, regardless of their coverage status or eligibility. It is time for Congress to take action to permanently add telehealth and remote care services as an excepted benefit for these employees.”
“We urge you to consider making permanent the current regulatory flexibility extended by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Treasury that allows telehealth and remote care services to be treated as an excepted benefit. Including standalone telehealth as an excepted benefit will help ensure hardworking Americans can access high-quality, cost-effective care when and where they need it most, regardless of employment status,” the letter stated. “Without Congressional action, employers will be unable to offer basic virtual health services to millions of Americans in part-time and seasonal jobs or workers otherwise not participating in their employer’s full medical plan.”
As Congress examines what policies are needed to transition to a post-pandemic economy, we ask that you consider targeted reforms to ERISA that would permanently allow employers to expand additional telehealth benefit options to many of our nation’s workers. While many employers want to provide telehealth or remote care benefits to employees, they are prohibited from doing so without exposure to penalties under ERISA.
About the ATA
As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading healthcare delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models. @americantelemed #telehealthishealth
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