WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), announced her co-sponsorship of the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.
“It’s because of telehealth that communities across Nevada and our nation have been able to safely access health care during the unprecedented public health crisis brought on by COVID-19,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation to build on the success of telehealth in states like Nevada and expand access to lifesaving care for more Americans. I will continue working to ensure Nevadans, regardless of their zip code, have access to the health care they deserve.”
BACKGROUND: Telehealth has seen a sharp rise in use since the start of the pandemic as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other health care settings, and instead receive safe and appropriate care from home. Data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by about 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.
The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and is considered the most comprehensive telehealth legislation 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 included in COVID-19 relief legislation to expand access to telehealth during the pandemic.
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 will:
- Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
- Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
- Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
- Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
- Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The CONNECT for Health Act is endorsed by: AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Children’s National Hospital, eHealth Initiative, Federation of American Hospitals, Health Innovation Alliance, HIMSS, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Personal Connected Health Alliance, and Teladoc Health.
Rosen co-sponsored the CONNECT for Health Act last Congress.
In March 2021, Rosen helped reintroduce the bipartisan Knowing the Efficiency and Efficacy of Permanent (KEEP) Telehealth Options Act. This legislation, co-led with Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), would require the federal government to study the actions taken to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic and report on how to extend those services beyond the pandemic.