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On the Hill: Telehealth Barrier Relief, Drug Pricing Hearing

A bipartisan group of senators last week reintroduced legislation that would remove a requirement that Medicare beneficiaries be seen in person within six months of receiving behavioral health services via telehealth.

The Telemental Health Care Access Act, introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), mirrors legislation America’s Essential Hospitals has endorsed, the CONNECT for Health Act. Both pieces of legislation would expand the use and scope of telehealth services for patients.

Recent and Upcoming Committee Action

The Senate Special Committee on Aging last week held a hearing, “Assisted Living Facilities: Understanding Long-Term Care Options for Older Adults.” It largely focused on affordability and staffing issues at assisted living facilities, acknowledging that these institutions affect other areas of health care. It also touched on concerns about increasing private equity involvement in health care, an issue the association is tracking.

Also last week, the Senate Committee on Finance unveiled a framework for forthcoming legislation to minimize drug shortages. This follows a Dec. 5 hearing, in which experts testified in support of potential changes to a wide array of hospital buying patterns, among other recommended modifications.

On Feb. 9, three pharmaceutical company CEOs are scheduled to testify at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing about the high cost of prescription drugs. America’s Essential Hospitals will monitor this hearing for mention of the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which the pharmaceutical industry has wrongly targeted as a cause of high prices.

Committee Activity This Week   

The House and Senate are both in session Tuesday through Thursday of this week, with only the former convening on Monday and the latter convening on Friday.   

The Senate HELP Committee has canceled an executive session originally set for Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 11 am ET, titled, “Authorization for Investigation into the High Costs of Prescription Drugs and Related Subpoenas.” 

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health has a hearing Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 10 am ET, titled, “Health Care Spending in the United States: Unsustainable for Patients, Employers, and Taxpayers.” 

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About the Author

Julia Grady is a legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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