November 13, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) convened and led a virtual roundtable with Maine healthcare providers and experts from the Bipartisan Policy Center on the benefits and future of telehealth for Maine and across the nation’s rural areas. The pandemic has resulted in a dramatic expansion of telehealth services, especially in Maine; these services have allowed for safe access to care for millions of Americans, though the vital policy changes that made this possible are not permanent.
As a key member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Rural Health Care Task Force, Senator King focused his conversation on how policymakers and healthcare providers can work together to consider the investments and permanent changes needed to sustain access to 21st-century quality healthcare through telehealth to meet the needs of Americans.
“One of the few silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic is the rise of telehealth as a widely-available tool to help millions of Americans efficiently and safely access healthcare,” said Senator King. “With the availability has come an increased awareness of the potential of this incredible innovation to improve the lives and health of rural Americans and older Americans, helping to cut down on long trips to doctors’ offices without losing quality of care. Now that we’ve seen the value of this tool, it’s up to us to ensure that the increase of telehealth are not only protected, but expanded by adjusting reimbursement rates, improving access to high-speed broadband, and more. Today’s dialogue reminded us of the progress we’ve made, and all the work we still have to do; as the next Congress comes into session, I will draw on the insights of our panelists to best serve the people of Maine.”
The panel featured: Jennifer Lundblad, President & CEO, Stratis Health; Dena McDonough, Associate Director, Health Project, Bipartisan Policy Center; Dr. Lisa Miller, Family Medicine Physician, Western Maine Health; Walter Panzirer, Trustee, Helmsley Charitable Trust; and Scott Oxley, President, Northern Light Acadia Hospital.
Since the pandemic struck, Senator King has pushed to improve telehealth services so more Americans can access care – and, given the widespread success, he’s worked to make these expansions permanent. In July, Senator King introduced the COVID–19 Emergency Telehealth Impact Reporting Act of 2020, requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assess key healthcare data, including utilization rates and hospital readmission rates, for patients who received their healthcare through expanded telehealth programs during the pandemic – in a push to make telehealth expansions permanent. Senator King also introduced the Mental and Behavioral Health Connectivity Act, legislation to allow Medicare beneficiaries to continue to access mental and behavior health services through telehealth in the near term and after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Senator King has introduced the Improving Telehealth for Underserved Communities Act, legislation to protect patients receiving care through telehealth services by shielding certain rural health clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in underserved communities from impending Medicare payments that could hinder their ability to care and treat patients. He has also urged the FCC to expand access to telehealth services in rural communities, and joined a bipartisan group of Senators calling for telehealth expansions included in coronavirus relief legislation to be made permanent.
The Bipartisan Policy Center is a think tank that actively fosters bipartisanship by combining ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans.