O’Halleran, Smith Lead Bipartisan Group to Call on Congressional Leadership to Prioritize Seniors’ Health During Coronavirus Crisis

March 23, 2020
Press Release

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) and Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE-03) sent a bipartisan letter signed by 36 members of Congress urging House and Senate leadership to prioritize a legislative solution to a critical flaw in the Medicare telehealth program that does not allow Medicare to cover telehealth services in many rural hospitals.

“While the administration has acted to encourage the use of telehealth in order to prevent unnecessary travel and face-to-face interactions, our nation’s safety net providers in rural health clinics and federally qualified community health centers are currently unable to provide distant site telehealth visits to their patients under Medicare,” wrote O’Halleran, Smith, and cosigners. “Until we resolve this, Medicare patients who receive their care from physicians and practitioners in these facilities must physically come in to receive care.”

O’Halleran, Smith, and cosigners requested that Congressional leadership make this issue a priority in coming legislation to continue to address coronavirus mitigation efforts, and suggested implementing Section 7 of the CONNECT for Health Act (H.R. 4932, S. 2741), which would allow physicians and practitioners in rural health clinics and federally qualified community health centers to provide telehealth visits to their patients just like their peers in fee-for-service settings.

“Arizona’s First Congressional District is extremely rural, and many Medicare beneficiaries in our district rely on rural health centers and community health centers,” said O’Halleran. “As we practice social distancing and quarantining measures, we must prioritize the needs of those most vulnerable in our communities, so they are able to stay home and stay healthy.”

“Access to quality health care is a challenge for rural communities under normal circumstances, let alone during this pandemic,” said Smith. “Technologies such as telehealth are critical to providing Medicare beneficiaries health care access while preventing unnecessary risks to those most vulnerable. If implemented correctly, telehealth will save lives.”

View the full letter, here.