House delegation introduces bipartisan bill to expand telehealth

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A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress on Monday would expand telehealth access to substance abuse treatment.

Reps. Ted Budd (R-NC), David McKinely P.E. (R-WV), David Cicilline (D-RI), and David Trone (D-MD) introduced the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act, which would increase access to telehealth services for substance use disorder by making permanent a Trump executive order to allow treatment specialists to prescribe Medication-Assisted Therapies and other treatment drugs via telehealth instead of in-person visits.

The bill would also make permanent the ability to bill Medicare for audio-only telehealth services.

“We should make it as easy as possible for those who struggle with substance abuse to get the help they need. Data has shown that overdoses have spiked nationally in March, April, and May during pandemic-related lockdowns. Especially during COVID-19, cutting out regulatory barriers to treatment should be a national priority, and I’m proud to support a bill like the TREATS Act that does just that,” Budd said in a statement.

A companion bill was introduced into the Senate last week by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The bill is supported by the American Society for Addiction Medicine, American College of Medical Toxicology, Kennedy Forum, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, National Association of Behavioral Health, National Safety Council, Shatterproof, and Well Being Trust.

“Overdoses are on the rise across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should be making it easier to access treatment, and the TREATS Act does just that. This bill would make it easier for those in both rural and urban areas to access vital addiction treatments. As we know, substance abuse disorders do not discriminate based on location, and patients should not have to choose between getting treatment and risking their health and safety to do so,” McKinley said.

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