December 20,2020

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Wyden Hails Health Policy Improvements in Yearend Legislation

Wyden-Led Reforms to Mental Health via Telemedicine for Seniors in Medicare Is Key Step Towards Making Mental Health Care a Right for All

Other Policies to Lower Costs, Expand Access and Improve Care for Many Americans Also Included

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today celebrated the inclusion of a key policy to improve access to mental health care via telemedicine in end of year legislation set to become law. Wyden also highlighted a number of other policies in the package that he fought to include.

“For too long, mental health care has gotten short shrift – that changes today,” Wyden said. “Mental health care should be a right for all Americans, and these reforms will begin to make that a reality. The twin crises of a pandemic and economic downturn have made it all the more important that Americans can get the mental health care they need, even if they can’t see their doctor in person.” 

The policy would make mental health services available through telemedicine for all Medicare beneficiaries and allow the services to be provided to them in their own homes. Earlier this year, Wyden introduced a bill that made similar reforms to increase access to mental health care.

Policies that Wyden also fought to include in the package would:

  • Extend and expand the Independence at Home demonstration that allows frail seniors to get more care at home.
  • Restore Medicaid coverage to COFA migrants who have been excluded from the program for more than two decades. COFA migrants are individuals who come to the United States from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau under an agreement between the nations.
  • Reduce cost-sharing for certain procedures and close coverage gaps in Medicare.
  • Provide Medicare beneficiaries with greater transparency regarding prescription drug costs and improve access to drug coverage for low-income beneficiaries.
  • Support development of the physician workforce, including in rural areas, through an historic investment in Medicare-funded graduate medical education.

“This legislation includes many important and long-sought improvements to our health care system that will help those who need it most,” Wyden said. “These measures help ensure Congress can focus on combatting the public health and economic crisis right away next year, but much work remains to be done, including work to improve maternal health.”