U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, today introduced the Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addiction Treatment (e-TREAT) Act, bipartisan legislation that would increase access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment through telehealth technology under Medicare. Thune has long advocated for the use of telehealth as a means to increase access to health care services in rural communities, like those throughout South Dakota.
“While South Dakota is fortunate to have lower rates of opioid-related deaths compared to other states, our communities are not immune to those dangers,” said Thune. “Many South Dakotans face real challenges with addiction, whether it’s from opioids or other substances, like alcohol or methamphetamines. Expanding treatment options through telehealth is just one way we can provide individuals who are battling substance use disorder with the help they need.”
In addition to the e-TREAT Act, Thune joined his colleagues to introduce several other bipartisan, SUD-related bills that the Senate Finance Committee is expected to wrap into a larger legislative package for a future, yet-to-be-scheduled markup. The package is expected to include Finance Committee bills beyond the list below.
- Eliminates originating site geographic restrictions for telehealth services to treat SUD. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are cosponsors of this legislation and, including Thune, have worked to expand access to telehealth services through S. 1016, the CONNECT for Health Act. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) also serve as original cosponsors.
- Directs CMS to issue guidance to states on options for Medicaid reimbursement for SUD treatment through telehealth, including medication-assisted treatment, counseling, and medication management. At Thune’s request, the bill directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to specifically include guidance on providing services through telehealth to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The bill also directs the CMS guidance to include options for reimbursement using a hub and spoke telehealth model and for telehealth services in school-based health centers. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced this bill, and including Thune, it’s cosponsored by Warner and Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
- Directs CMS to issue a report to congressional committees of jurisdiction on best practices and opportunities to reduce barriers to telehealth services to treat children with SUD. It also directs the Government Accountability Office to evaluate and recommend strategies to increase children’s access to services for SUD through telehealth under Medicaid. Roberts introduced this bill, and including Thune, it’s cosponsored by Nelson, Cornyn, Warner, Carper, and Stabenow.
- Directs CMS to issue guidance on options for state coverage of non-opioid, non-addictive pain management alternatives under Medicaid. U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced this bill, and including Thune, it’s cosponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Stabenow, Cornyn, and Nelson.
- Includes SUD screening and a review of opioid prescriptions as part of the Welcome to Medicare exam and annual wellness visit for seniors. U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced this bill, and including Thune, it’s cosponsored by Nelson and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).