The EASE Behavioral Health Services Act (HR 5473) would amend the Social Security Act and the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, extending Medicare and Medicaid coverage to include mental health and behavioral health services provided through telehealth. Medicare would cover behavioral health services provided through telehealth, while Medicaid would include treatment for mental health disorders and behavioral health disorders under the same rules that dictate treatment for substance use disorders. The Bill acknowledges that mental health disorders, behavioral health disorders, and substance use disorders are closely related.
Within two years of enacting this bill, the Comptroller General, who heads the Government Accountability Office, would have to submit a report, as outlined in the SUPPORT Act, to Congress providing recommendations for future legislation. The recommendations should be based on an evaluation of children’s access to treatment and services, including the number of Medicaid providers who offer these services in a school-based setting or via telehealth, for mental health and behavioral health disorders.
Telehealth is a fairly new method of healthcare delivery that uses electronic information and telecommunications to connect patients and healthcare professionals across long distances. According to the Bill, over half of adults and children who suffer from a mental health disorder do not receive treatment. The Bill acknowledges that, while the number of people needing access to mental health services continues to increase, the number of practicing psychiatrists in the US has declined substantially since the early 2000s. Because video visits are effective in providing treatment to those suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders, supporters of the bill believe that telehealth services, including behavioral health services, will help to provide critical services to those who need them.