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Telehealth in the Biden Era

Telehealth is Expected to Get a Big Boost in the Biden Era

Even before he was confirmed as President Joe Biden’s health secretary on March 18, 2021, Xavier Becerra had signaled his support for expanding telehealth. During his confirmation hearings in February, Becerra said, "I wholeheartedly believe we're going to be doing expansion of telehealth." 

"COVID has taught us so much,” he said. “It's also the issue of broadband – making sure communities have access to broadband."

Politico reported that Becerra plans to use telehealth to help reduce healthcare disparities in remote areas, and also reported that extending pandemic-era telehealth policies has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. 

The American Telemedicine Association cheered Becerra’s confirmation. "There are many challenges ahead in creating more equitable, accessible, and efficient care but we, like Secretary Becerra, believe that telehealth and virtual care services can offer critical solutions to deliver care whenever and wherever needed," said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson in a statement.

It remains to be seen whether private insurance companies will continue their expanded coverage of telehealth services that started after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, passed in March 2020. 

Many insurers had expanded coverage to include video conferencing and phone calls as COVID-19 spread across the nation in early 2020. Some even waived copays. But PBS Newshour reported that in late 2020, some insurers were already rolling back that coverage.

Mental health providers that accept insurance payments should watch for updates from each panel on coverage changes. You can also ask clients to check on their coverage before their first visit. 

By Amanda Barnett, LPC, NCC, EdS

Key sources

The Associated Press: Becerra confirmed to shepherd Biden’s ambitious health plans

Healthcare IT News: 

New HHS Secretary Becerra urged to expand digital health access

HHS Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra signals support for virtual care

PBS Newshour: Health insurers are starting to roll back coverage for telehealth – even though demand is way up due to COVID-19