March 11, 2022

In written comments submitted to Congress on March 4, Mercer recommends a number of healthcare policy improvements to expand telehealth and virtual care. Mercer also provided comments in February that suggest ways to control healthcare costs, improve quality, and encourage transparency and innovation. Both sets of comments respond to formal requests for information (RFIs) from the House Republicans’ Healthy Future Task Force, created in June to develop the party’s healthcare policy agenda. Many of the policy themes addressed in lawmakers’ call for comments and Mercer’s responses have bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

Promoting telehealth. Mercer’s March 4 comments on the RFI from the task force’s Modernization Subcommittee suggest that Congress build on its prior actions to expand access to and use of telehealth services in several ways, including:

 

  • Reviving and extending telehealth flexibilities created in response to the COVID-19 by enacting legislation — as done in the just-passed appropriations act (HR 2471) — to extend first-dollar coverage of telehealth under high-deductible health plans paired with health savings accounts

  • Removing state barriers to telehealth

  • Expanding telehealth access for underserved populations

  • Rejecting mandates that require payment parity for telehealth and in-person services

  • Encouraging the use of virtual healthcare and new artificial intelligence capabilities in practical ways that ensure patient privacy, safety and culturally appropriate care

Increasing affordability. The Feb. 4 response to the RFI from the task force’s Affordability Subcommittee shares key insights from Mercer’s 2021 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans on how employers are coping with a spike in costs and working to mitigate the impact on employees. The letter also addresses a broad range of issues identified by lawmakers as they consider “legislation that would increase price transparency, lower barriers to competition, and empower consumers to have more choice in their healthcare providers.” Specific issues addressed in Mercer’s comments include:

 

  • How employers are innovating to lower costs and improve care through initiatives that manage high-cost claimants and specialty drugs, while balancing cost and quality to achieve value

  • How more transparency and quality information can help address affordability, including numerous suggestions to build on and improve the 2020 transparency-in-coverage regulations

  • How compliance challenges limit individual-coverage health reimbursement arrangements

  • How to improve the government’s 340B Drug Pricing Program to bring healthcare services and medicines to uninsured and low-income patients using discounts from drug manufacturers
Geoff Manville
by Geoff Manville

Partner, Mercer’s Law & Policy Group

Rich Glass
by Rich Glass

Principal, Mercer’s Law & Policy Group

Stephanie Henkenius
by Stephanie Henkenius

Principal, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation and the US Healthcare Reform team


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