Torres Small Continues to Champion Rural Health Care, Leads Effort to Strengthen Telemedicine in New Mexico

June 11, 2020
Press Release
Legislation supports remote patient monitoring in rural communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Washington, D.C. –Today, Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Increasing Rural Health Access During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Act, a bipartisan bill that would invest $50 million in rural communities to increase access to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senators McSally (R-AZ)  and Jones (D-AL) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The legislation builds on Torres Small’s efforts to use telemedicine as a tool to bridge the urban-rural divide and increase access to health care. Torres Small has worked to expand federal telehealth grant programs through the Rural MOMS Act, led efforts to successfully advocate for expanded service reimbursement for rural telehealth, and introduced Save Our Rural Health Providers Act, which would allocate COVID-19 relief funding to rural healthcare providers across the country and in New Mexico. 

“No matter where you live, New Mexicans should be able to get high-quality healthcare close to home. COVID-19 has only heightened the importance of expanding telemedicine in rural communities. I’m proud to lead the introduction of bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would provide opportunities for rural providers across the district and nationwide to expand community-based services to reach more patients. We must continue to work towards innovative solutions to expand access to healthcare and make sure our rural communities aren’t left behind,” said Torres Small.

“This pandemic has demonstrated the vital importance of allowing rural healthcare facilities to fully embrace telemedicine as a way to reach patients in outlying and underserved areas,” said Newhouse. “Supporting the expansion of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring will empower our healthcare providers to ensure that no patient is left behind, especially during a public health emergency. I am proud to work in a bipartisan fashion with Rep. Torres Small to introduce this legislation, which will give our rural hospitals, clinics, and community health centers in Central Washington and beyond the tools they need to increase access to quality, effective healthcare.”

The Increasing Rural Health Access During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Act aims to increase telehealth access for rural America at a time when patients are encouraged to seek care remotely. Specifically, it would establish a pilot grant program within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase the use of remote patient monitoring technology in rural areas during the COVID-19 crisis. The bill authorizes $50 million to be used during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The grantees may use funds for salaries, equipment, and operating or other costs, including the cost of:

  • Developing and delivering remote patient monitoring services that enhance access to community-based health care services in rural areas
  • Developing and acquiring, through lease or purchase, computer hardware and software, audio and video equipment, computer network equipment, interactive equipment, data terminal equipment, and other equipment that furthers the objectives of the telehealth network grant programs
  • Providing for transmission of medical data and maintenance of equipment

Remote patient monitoring uses digital technologies and mobile medical devices to collect patient-generated health data from individuals in one location, and electronically transmit that information to medical professionals in other locations for assessment and intervention. This gives individuals in rural areas access to ongoing monitoring and management of chronic and acute conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and behavioral health. 

 Find full bill text here.