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Collins, King Join Legislation to Expand Telehealth Access

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) joined a bipartisan group of 58 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.

"One fifth of the U.S. population resides in rural or medically underserved communities where access to virtual care is vital, allowing patients to receive necessary care from the comfort and safety of their homes,” Senator Collins said. “The CONNECT for Health Act builds on the progress we have made by expanding coverage, removing restrictions, and improving data collection. This legislation will permanently remove barriers to telehealth and ensure that more Americans can efficiently and safely connect with their healthcare providers.”

“Maine healthcare providers have done remarkable work to provide older and rural Maine people access to telehealth visits and medical attention from the comfort of their home,” said Senator King. “Congress needs to make telehealth accessibility permanent, and ensure rural, older, and underserved communities can continue to access care in ways that works for them. The bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act would secure America’s telehealth progress and further reduce technological and regulatory barriers that stand between Maine people and quality, accessible healthcare. I’m happy to see such broad support for this important, commonsense legislation.”

Three provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were signed into law in 2020. As a result, there was a sharp rise in 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 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.

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 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.

In addition to Senators Collins and King, The CONNECT for Health Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Peter Welch (D-VT), Thom Tillis (D-NC), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), John Boozman (D-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Katie Britt (R-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN). Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

A summary of the bill and the full list of endorsing organizations are available here.

The full text of the bill is available here.


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