Sen. Schatz leads bipartisan effort in Congress to expand telehealth coverage
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi) helped lead a bipartisan group of 60 senators in reintroducing a health act that would 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.
The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health (CONNECT for Health) Act of 2023 also is being led by Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).
In December, Schatz secured the inclusion of provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act to the FY23 government funding bill that temporarily extended access to expanded telehealth services. Those provisions are set to expire in 2025, making the need for permanent telehealth policy urgent.
“While telehealth use has skyrocketed these last few years, our laws have not kept up,” Schatz said in a news release. “Telehealth is helping people in every part of the country get the care they need, and it’s here to stay. Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to see their doctors no matter where they live.”
The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and 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
- 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 lawmakers Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).
A summary of the bill and the full list of endorsing organizations are available here.
The full text of the bill is available here.
The CONNECT for Health Act has the support of more than 150 organizations including AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Telemedicine Association, Consumer Technology Association, Federation of American Hospitals, HIMSS, Kaiser Permanente, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Quality Forum, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, and Teladoc Health.