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On Press Call with Senior Groups, Klobuchar, Casey, Schakowsky Highlight Critical Measures to Keep Seniors Safe During Coronavirus Pandemic

Statement

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), along with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) held a call with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Long Term Care Community Coalition, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care to discuss issues facing seniors during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The call highlighted the Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced by Klobuchar, Casey, and Schakowsky. The bill would enhance telehealth support for seniors and increase access to technology for "virtual visits" during the pandemic, protecting one of the most vulnerable populations from risking exposure to the virus when accessing remote health care and connecting with loved ones.

"We know that people over 65 sadly account for eight in ten people in our country who have lost their lives to coronavirus. At least 25 percent have lost their lives in nursing homes according to the data reported by 23 states and it may be even higher, because especially at the beginning of the pandemic there just wasn't accurate data," Klobuchar said on the call. "What the ACCESS Act does is take on one of these primary challenges, which is people need to have visitors in a very different way than they ever thought possible."

"Inside a nursing home, the only thing that moves faster than the virus is fear, the fear of being alone, the fear of contracting the virus and the fear that comes when people are isolated," Casey said. "That fear is amplified at this time when families are unable to visit their loved ones and look out for their safety. That's why Congress must pass the bipartisan Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act. This important bill would help nursing homes purchase technology so residents can virtually visit their loved ones and safely stay connected."

"We know that residents of nursing homes represent less than one percent of the United States population and account for about 36 percent of the fatalities in this country, Schakowsky said. "Social isolation also brings its own set of health risks, including disruptions in sleep patterns, slowing the healing of wounds and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact there are studies that show, not only social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, it costs medicare an additional 6.7 billion dollars in spending per year. That's why Senator Klobuchar, Casey, and I have introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation, the ACCESS Act."

"The situation in our nation's nursing homes and long-term care facilities is dire. Every day, we hear from families who are prohibited from visiting their loved ones and are anxious about their care," said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer of AARP. "AARP strongly supports this legislation to help keep these families connected by getting the necessary technology for virtual visits into nursing homes and other care facilities. It will also help expand access to telehealth for nursing home residents. We thank the bipartisan sponsors for their work on this critical issue."

I am truly grateful to Senator Klobuchar and Senator Casey for their commitment to nursing home residents and families and for introducing the ACCESS Act," Richard J. Mollot, Executive Director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition said. "Everyday we hear from families who are concerned- if not distraught -- about the safety and well-being of their loved ones in a nursing home. This bill, if passed into law, will undoubtedly make an enormous, positive difference in the lives of thousands of residents and families across the U.S.

The ACCESS Act is cosponsored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and in April, was introduced in the House by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter King (R-NY).

The ACCESS Act is endorsed by AARP, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, the Long Term Care Community Coalition, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.


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