WICKER, HYDE-SMITH, SCHATZ REINTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND TELEHEALTH ACCESS, MAKE PERMANENT TELEHEALTH FLEXIBILITIES
60 Senators Cosponsor Bipartisan ‘CONNECT for Health Act,’ the Most Comprehensive Telehealth Legislation in Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) today led a bipartisan group of 60 senators in reintroducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2023 will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors.
“Telehealth is a revolutionary development in health care delivery. The internet put communications and commerce in the palm of our hand, and it is now doing the same for health care,” Wicker said. “After years of dedicated efforts, I am pleased to see the growing support for making flexibility in telehealth delivery permanent. The CONNECT for Health Act will move us toward Medicare beneficiaries receiving the health care they deserve.”
“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,” Hyde-Smith said. “Mississippians and Americans face many obstacles accessing health care, whether it’s living in rural areas, old age, or mobility issues. This legislation would be key to providing them with the quality, affordable care they need and deserve. It’s time to get this done.”
“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,” Schatz said. “Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to see their doctors no matter where they live.”
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, and Schatz are among the lead sponsors of the CONNECT for Health Act, which also includes U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).
Three provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were signed into law in 2020. As a result, there was a sharp rise in the use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic as patients avoided traveling to hospitals and other health care settings and instead chose to receive care at home. Data shows that telehealth provides essential access to care with nearly a quarter of Americans accessing telehealth in the past month.
The CONNECT for Health Act, first introduced in 2016, is considered the most comprehensive legislation on telehealth in Congress. Since 2016, several provisions of the bill were enacted into law or adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, including provisions to remove restrictions on telehealth services for mental health, stroke care, and home dialysis.
The updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act builds on that progress and includes new and revised provisions that will help more people access telehealth services. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
- Permanently allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services;
- Allow more eligible health care professionals to utilize telehealth services;
- Remove unnecessary in-person visit requirement for telemental health services;
- Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
- Require more published data to learn more about how telehealth is being used, impacts of quality of care, and how it can be improved to support patients and health care providers.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).
A summary of the bill, with a list of the more than 150 endorsing organizations, is available here.
The bill text is available here.