Rep. Payne, Jr. Wants More Support for Seniors during Coronavirus Pandemic

October 1, 2020
Press Release

Media Contact:  Patrick Wright   --  Patrick.Wright@mail.house.gov

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. wants seniors to have more access to online medical services so they can get critical health care and prescriptions during the coronavirus public health crisis.  

Rep. Payne, Jr. wrote a letter to the leadership of a key Congressional committee and Subcommittee today to ask them to support increased funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA).  The funding would be used to give more seniors access to Internet-based medical resources, such as telemedicine, and help them avoid in-person trips to a hospital, pharmacy or doctor’s office that could expose them to COVID-19.      

“Seniors need to avoid gatherings because they face the greatest risk of catching a fatal case of this coronavirus,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “But they still need medicine and basic health care services.  We need to make sure they can get these vital resources online to keep them safe and healthy until we find effective treatments and cures for this global pandemic.”       

In the letter, Rep. Payne Jr. wrote that “OAA funding is a critical lifeline for seniors, supporting programs that provide home-based meals and other community-based supportive services. These programs are especially vital during the current pandemic. Additional funding to help seniors obtain and use technology to access telemedicine services will go a long way to making sure seniors can receive care in these difficult times.”

Rep. Payne, Jr. co-wrote the letter with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) to the House leadership of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.  It was co-signed by 16 other Congressional members.

The full letter is listed below.

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October 1, 2020

 

Dear Chairwoman DeLauro, Ranking Member Cole, Chairman Scott, and Ranking Member Foxx:

Thank you for your continued leadership as the nation grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We write to request that you support increased funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) in future COVID-19 relief legislation to assist seniors in securing telemedicine equipment and to increase access to telemedicine services. We believe this funding should be in addition to funding that is dedicated to core OAA programs that provide aid to seniors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant shift in health care toward telemedicine services. We were pleased to see provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that allowed greater access to telemedicine. However, we are concerned that seniors may not be able to fully use telemedicine services due to a lack of equipment or lack of internet services that are required to conduct telehealth visits.

A study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2020, found that more than 41 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have access to a computer with high-speed internet access at home. The study also found that nearly 41 percent of these beneficiaries do not have access to a smartphone with a wireless data plan. These conditions can create a barrier between seniors and telemedicine services.

OAA funding is a critical lifeline for seniors, supporting programs that provide home-based meals and other community-based supportive services. These programs are especially vital during the current pandemic. Additional funding to help seniors obtain and use technology to access telemedicine services will go a long way to making sure seniors can receive care in these difficult times.

Again, we respectfully urge you to make sure that seniors get the help they need to access telemedicine services. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our request.

 

Sincerely,