McKnights Senior Living

60 Senators support bipartisan telehealth access bill

By Aaron Dorman

A majority of Senators in Congress are working to implement permanent telehealth services access through Medicare.

Sixty Senators, including six bipartisan sponsors, recently reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies Act (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2023.

Currently, telehealth services through Medicare are set to expire after 2024. The CONNECT for Health bill will permanently extend services. Significant provisions in the bill include removing geographic restrictions on telehealth services, allowing more health care professionals to utilize the services, removing certain in-person visit requirements, and allowing for a waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies.

A version of the bill was last introduced in 2021, and provisions were part of the final legislative package approved at the end of last year, Healthcare IT News reported.

The bill’s primary sponsors are: Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).

“While telehealth use has skyrocketed these last few years, our laws have not kept up. Telehealth is helping people in every part of the country get the care they need, and it’s here to stay,” Senator Schatz said in a press release. “Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to see their doctors no matter where they live.”

Telehealth surged during the pandemic, and currently 15% of Medicare beneficiaries use telehealth services, the bill’s summary states.

“The pandemic showed us just how valuable telehealth is to ensuring folks receive care, but telehealth’s use goes far beyond navigating public health emergencies,” said Senator Hyde-Smith in the release. “Mississippians and Americans face many obstacles accessing healthcare, whether it’s living in rural areas, old age, or mobility issues. It’s time to get this done.”

A companion bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of four legislators.

Over 150 organizations, including aging services providers have supported the bill.