Bill would expand access to telehealth, especially in rural areas
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet recently joined a bipartisan group of 60 senators to reintroduce the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. If passed, the CONNECT for Health Act would expand coverage of telehealth services and make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors online.
“In rural parts of Colorado, telehealth can be the literal difference between life and death,” said Hickenlooper. “This bill helps get doctors closer to the patients who need them most by making telehealth more flexible and accessible.”
“Telehealth services helped keep seniors, vulnerable patients, and health care workers safe during the pandemic – and they remain a vital resource for Americans living in rural and underserved communities,” said Bennet. “This bill will help expand access to telehealth services so Coloradans can access the care they need, wherever they need it.”
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 have been 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.
Three provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were signed into law during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it much easier for patients to access a doctor online. Since then, demand for flexible telehealth appointments has only increased. Nearly a quarter of Americans accessed telehealth in the past month.
The updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act 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.
Full text of the bill is available HERE.