WASHINGTON—Building on her work to support Iowa’s seniors during COVID-19, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is joining a bipartisan effort to expand health care access and virtual visitations for the state’s most at-risk individuals. Ernst is cosponsoring Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) bill, the Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act, which increases telehealth access in nursing homes and supports virtual visitation between seniors and their loved ones.
“COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, but it has presented unique challenges for older Iowans, many of whom rely on nursing homes, assisted living, or other residential care facilities. As many seniors are grappling with the impacts of COVID-19 and may be unable to see their loved ones, this bipartisan bill will increase access to telehealth and virtual visitations,” said Senator Ernst. “Whether it’s a video call to grandchildren or virtual care, I’m glad to be a part of this effort to support our seniors who are adjusting to the changes this pandemic has forced us to make.”
“During this frightening time, the health and safety of people living in nursing homes, assisted living, and other residential care facilities is paramount, which is why it is so critical that they have the ability to virtually visit and communicate with their loved ones while in-person visitation is restricted. Expanding access to telehealth in nursing homes can also help ensure more efficient and effective access to care and use of nursing home staff, especially when there are greater demands and responsibilities for care,” said Brad Anderson, AARP Iowa State Director.
The ACCESS Act would authorize an emergency supplemental appropriation of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Telehealth Resource Center to assist nursing facilities that receive funds through Medicare or Medicaid in expanding their use of telehealth services.
The bill would also require HHS to share recommendations on ways to improve access to telehealth in nursing home facilities and temporarily designated nursing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last, the bill would establish a grant program through HHS to provide nursing home facilities grants to enable residents to participate in virtual visits with family and loved ones while the health risks associated with in-person visits remains high during COVID-19.