CAHC was interviewed by Inside Health Policy about the House Education & the Workforce Committee making the Telehealth Benefit Expansion Act For Workers a top priority for the year,
The partisan nature of the hearing in April came as a surprise to Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), because the telehealth excepted benefits bill was bipartisan.
“It was surprising to me that people were saying these things are evil incarnate and they’re horrible,” White said. “We’ve experienced them the last two-and-a-half years and people enjoy them. They find value in them. It didn’t cause the kinds of problems that the Democrat witness or some of the members of the committee were saying would be problematic.”
White said there is lots of flexibility in the Affordable Care Act but there is currently not a statutory carve out for telehealth-only excepted benefits. Employers either offer group health coverage that complies with ACA or, if they don’t, face fines. Congress needs to pass a law to create a carve out.
“People are going to lose access to this benefit that they like and it’s not a huge population but it’s about 7% of employers right now,” White said. “You’re taking something away from people that they like and they want to continue using, especially for those part-time employees, like your seasonal workers or your people who are not eligible for group health coverage. They were relying on this telehealth excepted benefits package to at least provide something.”
But White said he has not seen any of the concerns that Democrats or stakeholder groups have raised about telehealth excepted benefits. Specifically, there are requirements around excepted benefits package offerings that make it clear workers are only signing up for telehealth benefits, not just a larger plan. Employers are required to explain the nature of the benefit to employees, he added.
Telehealth excepted benefits are part of a bigger effort to expand choices for employers and their workforce, according to White.
“As these bills start … moving through the House, it’d be interesting to see how the Senate reacts because people like choices,” White said. “They like options, and they like employers doing the legwork and offering these benefits because they don’t have to worry about it. Whereas in the ACA they’ve got to go through the website and make choices and pay high deductibles.”