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Klobuchar, Casey Introduce Legislation to Increase Seniors' Virtual Connection to Health Care and Community Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak


Date: March 19, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Senior Citizens

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new legislation to enhance telehealth support for seniors and increase access to technology for "virtual visits" during the coronavirus pandemic. The Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act would help protect one of the most vulnerable populations from risking exposure to the virus when accessing remote health care and connecting with loved ones.

"Protecting our seniors during this coronavirus outbreak does not have to come at the expense of their access to quality health care and maintaining ties to family and friends," Klobuchar said. "This new legislation would help ensure that federal funding is available to expand telehealth and virtual services at nursing facilities so that seniors remain connected to their health care providers and communities when in-person visits are limited during the pandemic."

"While we are working to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we must do everything we can to support the wellbeing of older Americans--who are the most at risk population," Casey said. "The Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act would help nursing homes utilize technology so residents can visit their loved ones while adhering to the recommendations of social distancing. This critical bill would help seniors reduce their risk of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19), while remaining connected to family and friends during this unprecedented public health crisis."

Specifically, the ACCESS Act would:

Authorize an emergency supplemental appropriation of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Telehealth Resource Center to assist nursing facilities receiving funding through Medicare or Medicaid in expanding their use of telehealth services;
Require the Secretary of HHS to share recommendations on additional ways to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities and temporarily designated nursing facilities during the pandemic; and
Establish a grant program authorizing HHS to award nursing facilities grants to nursing facilities to enable residents to participate in "virtual visits" with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.