Tester Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Permanently Expand Access to Telehealth

CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 would make permanent expanded access to telehealth, improve quality of care

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is introducing a bipartisan bill aimed at expanding access to telehealth across Montana.

Tester’s Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021 would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors regardless of geography.

“Telehealth is a game changer for a state like Montana, and especially for folks who live in the more rural areas and who often have to drive for hours for a routine checkup or to get a prescription refilled,” Tester said. “This bill will permanently allow folks to take advantage of the convenient, quality telehealth care available in Montana, keeping them safe while leading to better outcomes and healthier communities long after this pandemic ends.”

Previous COVID relief bills expanded access to telehealth to keep patients and providers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but those provisions were on a temporary basis and need to be made permanent.

Tester’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 would do so by removing barriers to telehealth coverage such as geographic and originating site restrictions, allowing health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, and creating a study to better understand how telehealth has been used during the pandemic.

Tester has long fought to expand access to telehealth in Montana. He secured funding for Montana telehealth programs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and has urged for those provisions expanding access to telehealth to be made permanent. Tester also called for audio-only telehealth reimbursements to level the playing field for seniors and others without reliable broadband access during the coronavirus outbreak, and successfully secured $2.15 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to bolster its telehealth capabilities through increased telework and call center capabilities in the CARES Act.

Text of Tester’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 is available HERE.