Queens lawmaker introduces legislation to help nursing home residents virtually connect with family members

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Congresswoman Grace Meng is seeking to help nursing home residents electronically connect with family members and doctors during the COVID-19 crisis. 

On May 13, Meng introduced a legislation that she is co-sponsoring called The Advancing Connectivity during the coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act. 

The bipartisan measure would protect vulnerable populations from risking exposure to COVID-19 by increasing their access to remote healthcare, and their ability to connect with loved ones and caregivers online. 

“We have all seen how nursing homes have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tragic deaths that have occurred at these facilities particularly here in New York,” Meng said. “We must protect the health and safety of our elderly population but physical distancing should not force them to be cut off from loved ones, and risk social isolation. This legislation would help ensure this does not happen, and that nursing homes residents can remain in touch with their family members and health care providers.”

 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 to assist nursing facilities receiving funding through Medicare or Medicaid in expanding their use of telehealth services;
  • Require the Secretary of HHS to share recommendations on additional 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 award nursing facilities grants to enable residents to participate in “virtual visits” with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.

Organizations endorsing the legislation, which was introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter King (R-NY), include AARP, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, the Long Term Care Community Coalition, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

 A Senate version of the bill has been introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA).  

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