Luján Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation To Expand Access To Telehealth Services

Nambé, N.M. – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to introduce the Rural and Frontier Telehealth Expansion Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding for telehealth services, including audio-only telehealth, by five percentage points in frontier states or states with limited access to broadband if those states cover telehealth services under Medicaid.

“New Mexicans in rural communities deserve access to high-quality health care that meets them where they are, and for many, that means video and audio telehealth services,” said Senator Luján. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these services are crucial and must be expanded. This bipartisan legislation would provide states with the necessary funding to increase access to vital video and audio telehealth services, which can be a lifeline for underserved communities and communities lacking broadband connectivity.

BACKGROUND: This bipartisan bill would increase federal FMAP for telehealth services, including audio only telehealth, by 5 percentage points if the state covers telehealth services under Medicaid and is a frontier state (New Mexico, Nevada, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) or a state “where less than 90% of the total population has access to fixed terrestrial broadband service of at least has fixed 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload according to the annual Broadband Deployment Report of the Federal Communications Commission.”

A recent report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that a record 80 million people currently have health coverage through Medicaid. From February 2020 to January 2021, national Medicaid enrollment increased by more than 9.7 million individuals, a 15.2% increase. The report attributes this increase in enrollment to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in federal matching funds (FMAP) Congress provided to states as part of the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA provides states with a temporary 6.2% payment increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding.

Telehealth visits expanded dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, both for COVID-19 related visits and for care for conditions not related to COVID-19. An October 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.



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