A broad, bipartisan group of 50 senators recently reintroduced the CONNECT for Health Act for a fourth time, and there is an expectation that this massive telehealth bill could become law.
The bill was first introduced in 2016 and is generally considered the most comprehensive telehealth legislation in Congress. The latest version is officially known as the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021.
Here are some of the most significant laws included in the 2021 version of the legislation:
- Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites.
- Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services (This provision is currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis).
- Provide the HHS secretary with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions (This provision is currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis).
- Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies.
- Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill has substantial external support: More than 150 organizations have endorsed the legislation including the American Medical Association and other national health associations and companies.
In a news release, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), one of the bill's primary sponsors, stated, "The last year has shown us that telehealth works, it's popular, and it's here to stay. Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to safely get the care they need no matter where they live."
Another primary sponsor, Roger Wicker (R-MS), stated, "Telehealth is enabling more people to receive the care they need, leading to improved outcomes and lower costs. This bipartisan legislation would build on the success of telehealth in states like Mississippi to eliminate existing barriers and expand access to lifesaving care for more Americans."
Here is access to a summary of the bill and review the list of endorsing organizations.