Legislation sponsored by Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) passed the House of Representatives today, included in a larger tele-health package: HR 4040, the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act.
Previously, Rep. Hern introduced HR 8497, the Protecting Mental Health Services Act. The bill was included in today's HR 4040. HR 8497 permanently extends Trump-era tele-health benefits for senior citizens, specifically relating to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
When the pandemic hit, President Trump and HHS Secretary Azar removed obstacles for Medicare recipients to receive health care virtually. Those policies from the Trump Administration are set to expire at the end of the public health emergency. Simultaneously, mental health issues have been on the rise since the beginning of the public health emergency, with suicide, depression, and substance abuse impacting millions of families.
Today, Rep. Hern argued in favor of his legislation on the House floor. You can watch the video here.
Remarks as prepared:
Madame Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4040, which will maintain seniors' access to telehealth, or as I call it virtual health.
In 2020, the Trump Administration eliminated bureaucratic red tape so seniors could access health care virtually from the comfort of their homes. As a result, 52 million seniors sought their medical care virtually in 2020.
I'm proud to see my bill, the Protecting Mental Health Services Act, included in this legislation to ensure seniors have virtual access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. My bill ensures all Oklahomans can access high quality care - regardless of their physical location.
While this legislation is a step forward, it is unfortunate that it excludes employer-sponsored health care from the same low-cost access to telehealth. It is critical to provide folks on the job with the ability to seek flexible treatment, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this provision at a later date.