SACRAMENTO, CA – Assembly Bill 32, by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas), introduced at the beginning of the legislative session, sought to expand health care accessibility via telehealth, by making the telehealth flexibilities put in place during the pandemic permanent. It received bipartisan support in both the Assembly Health Committee, 13-0, and Assembly floor, 78-0. Additionally, both the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees supported AB 32 because telehealth services have transformed the health care delivery system, especially during a global pandemic.
Most recently, AB 32 was delayed in the Senate Health Committee because the Department of Health Care Services, the co-sponsors, and the authors made a budget agreement, which will allow current flexibilities to remain for one more year for Medi-Cal patients. AB/SB 133, the health budget bills, are a step in the right direction and will allow our most vulnerable communities to continue to access health care services via the modality that works best for them.
“I commend both Governor Gavin Newsom, my colleagues in the Assembly, and the Senate Budget Committee for extending telehealth services for one more year,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done because this is not a permanent solution. It is vital that we lock in flexibilities across modalities that were critical to people getting health services during the pandemic, collect data to ensure quality and good health outcomes, expand these services to commercial providers, and assure that providers get reimbursed appropriately. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and our telehealth coalition this upcoming legislative session on this important issue. Health care must not be rationed, because a healthy population is priceless, but also costs less.”
While the pandemic has led to disruptions in patient access to care, telehealth, specifically telephonic care, has allowed providers to bring care to their patients. Patients, regardless of who they are, what insurance they have, what language they speak, or the barriers they may face, such as a lack of local health professionals, mobility, childcare, or the ability to take time off from work, have been able to receive lifesaving services. Telehealth has transformed healthcare during the nation’s worst health crisis in a century, allowing patients to maintain timely access to care while also mitigating COVID-19 exposure.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
"PPAC is proud to have co-sponsored efforts this year to protect critical funding for patient services and expand access to telehealth. Not only has telehealth become an integral part of California’s public health care system, it is critical to addressing the health disparities laid bare by COVID. Where you live, the type of phone you own or what type of insurance you have shouldn’t determine your ability to access health care. Just like those with commercial insurance, Californians with Medi-Cal should be able to access care whether its in-person, video, or phone appointments. While there is still more work to do, the continuation of telehealth access in SB/AB 133 is an important step towards removing barriers and bringing health equity to all corners of California. With this budget agreement, Planned Parenthood will be able to continue to meet patients where they are and we applaud the Legislature for passing the bill today and want to especially thank Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for her leadership on this issue.”
California Medical Association:
"CMA is pleased to see the inclusion of the telehealth flexibilities that were granted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and thoughtfully championed by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry through AB 32, included in the legislative budget package and is grateful to see Governor Newsom sign the proposal into law. Telehealth flexibilities have become an essential part of health care in the last year because they have enabled physicians to provide and expand care to Californians across the state throughout the pandemic, and they ensure that we can continue to meet this moment and lay the groundwork for a more equitable and accessible health care landscape,” said Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D., California Medical Association President. “Telehealth has become such an important tool for physicians’ practices during this time because it allows them to provide safe and effective care to their patients. Additionally, telehealth bridges access barriers by utilizing technology to better harness physician time and expertise, and by connecting patients to their care providers more quickly, efficiently and conveniently. Protecting the telehealth expansions, especially those that relate to telephonic visits which play a crucial role in bridging access barriers, is essential to meeting our current health care demands and expanding health care access to those who need it most. Signing this critical piece of legislation marks a meaningful step towards ensuring that all Californians – regardless of their geography, income, or background – can receive access to quality care in the future."
California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
“Telehealth is essential to ensuring access to care and reducing disparities, especially for underrepresented populations. We appreciate the efforts made by our legislative leaders and the State to extend the current flexibilities until 2022 and we look forward to working with the Administration and partners in the Legislature to develop a permanent long-term solution that will ensure access to telehealth for all Californians. We also thank Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry for her strong leadership on this important issue over the past year and for advancing health care access in the state.” – Sarah Hesketh, SVP, External Affairs, California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
California Primary Care Association
“We would like to commend the Governor and Legislature for extending current telehealth flexibilities, including telephonic care, through 2022,” said Andie Martinez-Patterson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs with CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates. “We would also like to recognize the leadership of Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry for prioritizing community health center (CHCs) patients and recognizing the power of telehealth to address inequality in the healthcare delivery system. Telephonic care has become a powerful tool to bridge the gap in care for health center patients, particularly for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and rural communities. BIPOC and rural communities were able to access needed primary care and behavioral health services over the last 16 months after CHCs transitioned to telehealth and telephonic visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now they are guaranteed to be able to do so long after this pandemic too.”
Essential Access Health
“Telehealth adoption during the pandemic has transformed our health care delivery system, and reduced barriers to receiving essential services for patients across the state,” said Amy Moy, Chief External Affairs Officer at Essential Access Health. “We applaud the Governor for extending current telehealth flexibilities beyond the public health emergency and appreciate Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry’s tireless efforts to ensure that all Californians can get the care they want – when, how, and where they need it. There’s no turning back now. We are committed to continuing to work with our state leaders and partners to make equitable access to remote care a permanent reality statewide, regardless of a patient’s income, insurance coverage status, or zip code.”
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