June 16, 2020
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King joined a bipartisan group of 30 Senators in calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent. Cosponsored by Senators Collins and King, provisions of the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act were included in COVID-19 relief legislation. These provisions, which expand coverage of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, are set to expire following the pandemic.
“Americans have benefited significantly from this expansion of telehealth and have come to rely on its availability,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Congress should expand access to telehealth services on a permanent basis so that telehealth remains an option for all Medicare beneficiaries both now and after the pandemic. Doing so would assure patients that their care will not be interrupted when the pandemic ends. It would also provide certainty to health care providers that the costs to prepare for and use telehealth would be a sound long-term investment.”
In their letter, the Senators highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by 11,718 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.
In addition to Senators Collins and King, the letter was also signed by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Chris Coons (D-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
At a Senate Health Committee hearing tomorrow titled, “Telehealth: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Senator Collins, a member of the Committee, will question public health experts about their efforts to rapidly expand telehealth services for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Senators Collins and King announced more than $500,000 for two Maine health centers to improve and expand telehealth services.
Click HERE to read the full letter.