Congressman Jerry Carl, R-Alabama, on Thursday announced that he was co-sponsoring two pieces of bipartisan legislation.
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 — led by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California, and Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio — would make permanent the telehealth flexibilities allowed through Medicare since January 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act — led by Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont — would allow community pharmacies in medically underserved areas to participate in Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) preferred pharmacy networks.
Carl said that both pieces of legislation would increase access to affordable health care for seniors across the nation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many things, including the importance of expanding and maintaining affordable, accessible health care options for our nation’s seniors,” Carl said. “I’m proud to work with a bipartisan group of colleagues on legislation to ensure our nation’s seniors can continue using telehealth options under their Medicare plan, while also enabling them to fill their prescriptions from a local pharmacy of their choosing.”
“Telehealth is a proven and cost-effective method of delivering health care to patients, especially those in rural or underserved areas,” said Thompson. “The Coronavirus pandemic has only further proven the efficacy of the practice. That’s why I am proud to join with my colleagues on the Telehealth Caucus to reintroduce the CONNECT Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to expand the use of telehealth. The CONNECT Act allows telehealth to be used to deliver mental health and emergency care and allowing new sites such as Federally-qualified health centers to deliver care through telehealth. I urge House and Senate leadership to move this bill quickly so we can better deliver health care for the American people.”
“Study after study demonstrates that the use of telehealth to provide healthcare services is beneficial for improved quality of care, access to care, and reducing healthcare costs,” Johnson said. “Telehealth has surged in popularity over the last year due to the pandemic. To keep the ball rolling in the right direction, we’ve got to remove some of the barriers that limit the use of telehealth and make responsible, permanent changes. This legislation does just that.”
The Connect for Health Act of 2021 was introduced in the 117th Congress in April and currently has 79 cosponsors. It is supported by more than 150 organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association.
“HR4577 would expand patients’ access to discounted, or “preferred”, co-pays in medically underserved areas,” Welch and Morgan Griffith wrote. “This would save beneficiaries money while giving them the ability to use a pharmacy that best meets their individual health needs. In many underserved, especially rural areas, patients or their caregivers are surprised to learn the community pharmacy they have used for years, even decades, may not be “preferred” by their Medicare Part D plan. In fact, a senior may discover that they live 20 miles or more from a “preferred” pharmacy. Being forced to drive great length – often over mountains or in inclement weather in our districts – to pick up medication or for consultation with a pharmacist is an issue of mobility and safety for seniors.”
The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act of 2021 was also introduced in April and has 16 cosponsors.
Carl represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.