Congress Should Act Quickly to Pass TREAT Act, Improve Access to Telehealth
March 09, 2021

ACE and 50 other higher education associations are urging Congress to pass legislation creating temporary license reciprocity across state lines for health care professionals or practitioners who treat physical or behavioral health conditions.

The March 8 letter from ACE President Ted Mitchell and the other associations is part of an ongoing advocacy campaign by the higher education community to address the need for such reciprocity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It follows a hearing last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee looking at the future of telehealth and how COVID-19 has changed the delivery of virtual care.

“As the hearing made abundantly clear, even as the use of telehealth and tele-mental health has risen dramatically during the Covid-19 crisis, state licensure rules and complexity remain an impediment to providing much-needed health and behavioral care via telehealth technology to patients, including colleges students, across state lines,” states the letter. “In response, Congress should enact the ‘‘Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment Act’’ (TREAT Act) (H.R. 708/S. 168) as soon as possible to address this urgent problem now while the best path to longer term licensure reform is explored.”

The letter notes that three of the five witnesses at the hearing endorsed this bipartisan, bicameral measure.

In April 2020, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, ACE and more than 60 other organizations sent a letter to governors nationwide noting that as colleges and universities moved to implement physical distancing and shifted to online instruction, remote support of students became critically important. That letter asked governors to take immediate action to ensure that their states permitted remote health and mental health services to be delivered across state lines until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over.

However, that did not happen broadly or consistently enough nationwide.

In December, ACE and more than 50 higher education associations and other organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders supporting the TREAT Act when it was introduced toward the end of the 116th Congress. The legislation was re-introduced in early February by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

As in the last Congress, under the TREAT Act health care professionals would continue to practice within the scope of practice authorized by state and local authorities in the jurisdiction in which the provider holds a valid license. The TREAT Act would merely permit health care providers who hold a valid license in good standing in at least one state to practice in all other states for the duration of the pandemic emergency declaration.

As the ACE letter notes, the TREAT Act is designed to temporarily address the fact that “the patchwork of state and local licensing laws that restrict the provision of care across state lines remains a significant barrier to timely access to vital physical and behavioral health care. The result is confusion and delay.”​

​COVID-19 Policy Developments

Learn more about the higher education association effort to urge Congress and the administration to craft a comprehensive response that addresses the challenges students and campuses are facing.

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