WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan discussed ways to strengthen Granite Staters’ access to health care during a Senate Finance Committee hearing today on the COVID-19 pandemic.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
Senator Hassan Calls for More Equitable Access to Telehealth Services for Rural Communities
Senator Hassan highlighted the importance of telehealth access for patients in rural communities: “The dramatic expansion in telehealth services during the pandemic has benefited a large number of patients, including many in my home state of New Hampshire,” said Senator Hassan.
Throughout the hearing, witnesses continually spoke about the benefits that telehealth has provided to patients and ways to expand access to it.
Senator Hassan recently joined her colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021 in order to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.
Senator Hassan Highlights Challenges Ahead for Vaccinations
Senator Hassan also focused on the challenge of low rates of pediatric vaccinations.
“I am very concerned that – over the past year – routine child wellness visits and pediatric vaccinations have declined significantly, particularly for children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Senator Hassan. “Telehealth expansions have improved access to many routine primary care services, but unfortunately you can’t get a vaccination over Zoom.”
Dr. Kisha Davis, member of the Commission on Federal and State Policy at the American Academy of Family Physicians, responded that tactics such as drive-up clinics and school requirements can help drive up pediatric vaccination rates.
Senator Hassan also highlighted the need to expand Medicaid coverage of maternal vaccines.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of providing critical vaccines to vulnerable populations at no cost,” Senator Hassan said. “Women covered through Medicaid are less likely to receive their tetanus and influenza vaccines during pregnancy than those who have commercial insurance.”
Earlier this year, Senator Hassan reintroduced the bipartisan Maternal Immunization Coverage Act with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), which would ensure that state Medicaid programs cover ACIP-recommended vaccines for pregnant beneficiaries at no cost. Dr. Davis agreed with Senator Hassan that expanding access to vaccines at no cost through Medicaid and other programs is important.
Senator Hassan Pushes for More Home and Community-Based Services
Senator Hassan went on to discuss the importance of sustained support for home and community-based services.
“The American Rescue Plan increases federal funding for home and community-based Medicaid services,” said Senator Hassan. “However, while this initial investment is an important step, we need to do more to ensure that older adults and individuals with disabilities have access to this care.”
The Senator successfully pushed to include more than $12.6 billion in dedicated emergency funding for State Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in the American Rescue Plan.