Salas Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Health Care via Telehealth
SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced Assembly Bill 2007 (AB 2007) which will improve access to health care services for children and underserved families by ensuring that providers can deliver care using telehealth. This technology brings high-quality and safe care to children and adults, particularly in rural areas. Telehealth can be used in real time through video conferencing and can forward documents such as photos, x-rays, and other health records.
“Valley families face many barriers that often prevent them from being able to access health services,”
said Assemblymember Salas. “People in rural areas often have to drive long distances to appointments or can’t find dentists near their homes. AB 2007 will use technology to help reduce these barriers by allowing children and families to access important services such as dentistry at places where they already attend like school sites and local clinics.”
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health Centers (RHC) are a critical source of care for rural communities, serving as a safety net for the most vulnerable populations. Many of these centers do not have the capacity to meet all of the needs of the people in their service areas. Working families also face financial, transportation, and language barriers when seeking care. Health centers have successfully used telehealth to reduce these barriers, specifically with the Virtual Dental Home (VDH) in which specially trained hygienists and assistants go to community sites to provide dental care.
“Many children across the state face financial, transportation, and language barriers when seeking quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. “This bill reduces these barriers by ensuring the state’s most vulnerable kids can establish a relationship with a provider from wherever they are in the state using telehealth technology.”
AB 2007 will clarify that in addition to providing services through telehealth, FQHCs/RHCs can serve a patient through telehealth services in community settings as long as clinic staff are at the community sites. This bill will also address a current barrier, which requires FQHCs/RHCs to “establish” an individual as a patient through an in-person visit before they can bill for telehealth services. This is an unnecessary burden for patients and their families, as well as for providers. This simple clarification has the potential to increase access to vital and cost-effective health care services to thousands of patients in underserved communities across California.
Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.