Underwood Joins Bipartisan Effort to Help Seniors Stay Connected to Loved Ones and Health Care Providers During Coronavirus Pandemic

May 5, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) joined a bipartisan effort to help seniors remain connected to loved ones and health care providers during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by cosponsoring the Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act (H.R. 6487). Many older Americans and individuals with disabilities live in nursing homes, and the COVID-19 pandemic has severely isolated nursing home residents making it difficult to see family members or visit health care providers. The ACCESS Act, led by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Peter King (NY-02), would protect these vulnerable senior populations from risking exposure to the coronavirus by expanding access to remote health care and their ability to connect with loved ones online.  

“Older Americans and nursing home residents are at elevated levels of risk for severe illness from the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen nursing homes emerge as coronavirus hotspots across the United States, including in communities throughout northern Illinois. It’s essential we protect these groups,” said Underwood. “I’ve cosponsored the ACCESS Act to ensure that seniors have access to technologies that will allow them to remain healthy and connected to loved ones during these difficult times. 

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 nursing facilities to enable residents to participate in “virtual visits” with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.