Sending Office: Honorable Janice D. Schakowsky
COSPONSOR H.R. 6487, THE BIPARTISAN, BICAMERAL ACCESS ACT
(Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors)
Older adults are among the most vulnerable populations during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to the
World Health Organization, people over 60 are at the highest risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19,
with 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. and
95% of deaths in Europe occurring among older adults. In an effort to protect older adults from COVID-19, visits to nursing homes have been restricted across the country, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a policy temporarily eliminating
visitation in over one hundred VA nursing facilities.
While offering protection from the outbreak, these policies make older adults more susceptible to social isolation and loneliness by cutting them off from their primary advocates and caregivers while living in long-term care facilities: their families and
loved ones. Further, social isolation introduces its own
set of health risks, including disrupting sleep patterns, slowing the healing of wounds, and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, not only can social isolation be as damaging to health as
smoking 15 cigarettes per day, it costs Medicare an
additional $6.7 billion in spending per year.
recent guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to nursing homes to offer alternative means of communication to facilitate telehealth and remote visitation, such as virtual visits, many nursing homes lack the technology and infrastructure
to implement these recommendations.
The ACCESS Act would make important investments in existing telehealth programs and create a grant program to facilitate the connection of older adults with their loved ones through virtual visits. 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 Program to assist skilled nursing facilities under Medicare and nursing facilities under Medicaid in expanding
their use of telehealth services;
- Require the Secretary of HHS to share recommendations on 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 issue specific guidance and award nursing facilities grants that enable residents to participate in “virtual visits” with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.
Member of Congress
PETER T. KING
Member of Congress
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