Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill Eliminating In-Person Requirement for Medicare Mental Health Visits

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has reintroduced legislation that would make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to access virtual behavioral health services.

The Telemental Health Care Access Act, if passed into law, would eliminate the requirement for doctors to see a Medicare beneficiary in-person within six months of being treated virtually for a behavioral health concern.

The bill was reintroduced to the House by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) after an initial version of the bill was introduced in 2021.


“The option of telehealth makes it easier for patients to pick up the phone, follow through on their appointments, and seek care sooner,” Matsui said in a statement. “That’s why we need to continue to remove arbitrary barriers like the in-person requirement that restrict access to telemental health services. We have far more than just a foundation for telehealth now – we have a nation relying on these services.”

Several medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Telemedicine Association, and the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, support the reintroduced legislation.

“Telehealth continues to demonstrate its value in expanding access to behavioral health services in rural and other underserved areas,” Arthur Evans Jr., CEO of the American Psychological Association, said in a statement. “Clinicians agree that telehealth is here to stay, as 96% of psychological practitioners who are already using telehealth say they intend to continue offering such services after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This legislation is critical to ensuring that Medicare providers can continue offering these services to the same degree.”


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health emergency (PHE) allowed for an unprecedented level of telehealth flexibility. Some of these changes were made permanent, while others have either gone back or are slated to return to their pre-pandemic status.

For example, Medicare patients can now permanently receive telehealth mental health services in their homes.

However, after Dec. 31, 2024, doctors must conduct an in-person visit with a patient within six months of initial behavioral health.

During the PHE, more and more Medicare beneficiaries became reliant on telehealth.

In 2022, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department released a report that found 43% of behavioral health visits for Medicare beneficiaries were conducted via telehealth. That accounted for about 12% of all telehealth visits regardless of care type from March 1, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021.

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