Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand telehealth services for substance use disorder treatment.
The Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act would make permanent key waivers to regulatory restrictions for accessing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The waivers allow patients to receive treatments and counseling virtually but expire at the end of the public health emergency.
Making the waivers permanent would increase access to Medication Assisted Therapies and other necessary drugs without a prior in-person visit, support telehealth needs in rural communities where broadband, and bill Medicare for audio-only telehealth services.
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bill.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and the increase in overdoses we’re seeing only increases the need for additional flexibility to help those suffering from addiction,” said Portman. “The rollout of telehealth waivers has both helped patients maintain access to care safely at home and increased access to care for those who didn’t otherwise have access to in-person treatment. As we move forward and look to life beyond this pandemic, we must make sure that the advances to care and access that telehealth is currently providing are not lost, and that’s exactly what this bill will do.”