Padilla Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Modernize Health Care System, Improve Access to Digital Health Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) introduced the Health Accelerating Consumers’ Care by Expediting Self-Scheduling (ACCESS) Act to modernize health care and improve patients’ access to care. The bipartisan legislation improves digital health services by allowing patients to easily search for and book health care appointments online while protecting personal health information. 

“Every American deserves accessible physical and mental health care without having to jump through outdated hoops,” said Senator Padilla. “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated provider wait times, making incorporating digital health programs essential to efficiently administering care. We cannot let scheduling obstacles prevent Americans in crisis from receiving care when they need it most.”

“The last thing a sick patient needs is a barrier when trying to book a medical appointment,” said Dr. Cassidy. “As a doctor, I am a firm believer that we should use the technology available to us to make accessing health care simpler.”

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for digital health services and other innovative practices. Under current law, however, there is no distinction between illegal referral practices and scheduling services that reduce the barriers associated with accessing necessary and appropriate care. These barriers exist for mental health as well as physical health care — nearly half of the 60 million adults and children living with mental health conditions in the United States go without any treatment. Supporting self-scheduling technology will increase the ability for patients to seamlessly see which mental health professionals are nearby and readily available to help.

Specifically, the Health ACCESS Act would amend the Anti-Kickback Statute to remove regulatory ambiguity and allow digital health and appointment booking platforms to work together to better serve patients. Doing so ultimately improves access to care via user-friendly services, expands provider choice and scheduling availability, and enhances the overall health care experience and ecosystem.

U.S. Representatives Blake Moore (R-Utah-01), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.-10), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.-11), and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-19) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Health ACCESS Act is supported by the Chronic Care Policy Alliance, Boston Medical Center, Corewell Health, and Indiana University Health.

Senator Padilla has been a strong advocate for expanding mental health care access, especially for underserved communities. Last year, Padilla announced the launch of the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus to serve as a forum for Senators to collaborate on and promote bipartisan legislation and solutions, hold events to raise awareness of critical mental health issues, and destigmatize mental health. Padilla and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also introduced legislation to improve and expedite access to the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Additionally, Padilla introduced a trio of bills to address the unique mental health needs of military childrenLatinos, and farm workers.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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