SACRAMENTO, CA – Assembly Bill 32, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), to expand virtual health services, known as “Telehealth” passed its first significant hurdle on Tuesday receiving a bipartisan, 13-0 vote in the Assembly Health Committee.
AB 32 seeks to make current, more flexible rules for the use and reimbursement of telehealth services permanent under state law. Telehealth modalities, like phone and video calls, and remote enrollment in state health programs have been critical in providing health care during COVID-19. This bill ensures telehealth can continue, increasing access to health care services for all Californians, including the state’s most vulnerable families and Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
“I’ve worked for years with the California Telehealth Coalition to provide telehealth as a tool for Californians to access health services, especially those with work, child care, or mobility barriers, and those in communities without access to health professionals,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry in presenting her AB 32 to the Assembly Health Committee. “It took a global health crisis for much of the nation to recognize that telehealth offered a way to ensure our most vulnerable communities had access to care. But, the tragedy of the COVID outbreak created a bridge to expand telehealth access in more normal times, and a path to healthier lives for all Californians. AB 32 makes telehealth access permanent, so this opportunity doesn’t go away with the pandemic.”
Under the bill, virtual health services would be available to all patients, no matter their background. These essential health care services include primary care, specialty services, sexual and reproductive health care services, dental care, behavioral health services and more. If passed, AB 32 will increase accessibility and decrease barriers, it will be a crucial component as we continue to navigate through this pandemic.
"This pandemic has highlighted how instrumental online medical care is to the health and wellbeing of Californians," said Assemblymember. Rivas, joint author of AB 32. "Telehealth will be here long after COVID-19 is gone, and we need to ensure that every Californian has access to receive this type of care. I want to thank Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for leading on this effort.”
“Telehealth has propelled the health care delivery system forward in how technology is being used for sexual and reproductive health care. AB32 will provide for continued equal access – no matter your insurance type, race, income, or zip code,” said Jodi Hicks, CEO/President of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.
“Telehealth has been a critical pathway for patients across the state to get time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health care during the pandemic,” said Amy Moy, Chief External Affairs Officer oat Essential Access Health. “Remote visits have resulted in shorter wait times for appointments, drops in no-show rates, and expanded access – particularly in areas with provider shortages. Telehealth has quickly transformed our health care delivery system and eliminated barriers to in-person care like the need for transportation, child care, and time away from work. These barriers disproportionately impact low-income patients, individuals living in rural regions, and communities of color. We can’t go backwards. We applaud Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for her leadership in helping to ensure that telehealth services are here to stay, and that all Californians can get the care they want, when they need it.”
“Telehealth, especially telephonic care, has become a critical component of health care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its many benefits are proving its importance in perpetuity,” said Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D., California Medical Association President. “CMA proudly supports AB 32 and thanks Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for her leadership as the bill passes through its first major hurdle today and remains on track to make permanent the flexibilities that have made providing safe and effective care possible in this moment, and as the bill paves a way to expand access to care for Californians across the state by bridging access barriers.”
“During the pandemic, telehealth greatly expanded access and reduced long-standing barriers to care, especially for those most vulnerable. As core safety net providers, public health care systems primarily serve Medi-Cal patients and other at-risk populations, such as essential frontline workers, communities of color, and those individuals who are homeless. Our providers know first-hand the significant and unique barriers that many of these patients experience while trying to receive care. Telehealth, especially phone visits, has given these patients a chance to receive the care they need most. ” said Erica Murray, President and CEO, California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems and co-sponsor of AB 32
“In California we take pride in our innovation and our reputation as health policy leaders,” said Andie Martinez Patterson, Vice President of Government Affairs for California Health+ Advocates. “We have the opportunity to drive forward innovation and build upon the progress that has been made during the pandemic for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. COVID-19 has shown us that telehealth and telephone visits are integral to an equitable health delivery system for communities of color. Let’s guarantee health equity is at the center of policy decisions today that will guide our post pandemic future. Thank you to Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for her leadership, Chairman Wood and members of the Assembly Health Committee for moving this bill forward.”
AB 32 moves next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento. www.asm.ca.gov/aguiar-curry