Legislators are seeking to expand access to health care through telehealth, biosimilars

Legislators are calling for a re-examination of the health sector to address social and economic factors to make it more accessible to the public.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) And Sen. Bill CassidyThe Bill CassidyInfrastructure agreement is proof that Congress can still do good, bipartisan work The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by ExxonMobil – House Democrats hold big vote on Biden measure Overnight Health Care – Presented by Emergent Biosolutions – Pfizer seeks antiviral pill approval MORE (R-La.) Both pointed to the expansion of telesealth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of positive change during The Hills’ “Future of Health Care Summit: Tackling Costs & Pathways to Care” event last week.

Telesealth is convenient, saves costs and increases availability to those in rural areas, they said. With the right services and instruments, patients can record their blood pressure, monitor other vital signs and coordinate treatment with physicians.

Cárdenas also pointed to biosimilars – off-brand drugs without any significant difference from the original – as a crucial tool for lowering drug prices and improving accessibility, ultimately improving Americans’ mental and physical health.

“Biosimilars have been approved by the FDA,” Cárdenas told The Hills Steve Clemons. “It will bring a lot more competition into the space, which means it will bring prices down, make it more widespread and accessible to more people across the spectrum.”

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Advancing Education on Biosimilars Act of 2021, which requires the FDA to spread awareness about the cheaper alternatives among health care providers.

Legislators have also introduced various measures to promote telehealth and protect the extended access that many Americans enjoyed during the pandemic.

Cassidy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced Connected MOM Act March with the aim of securing expectant mothers access to telecommunications health.

“How do we bring technology to the person where she lives, as opposed to requiring her to show up?” said Cassidy at Wednesday’s event, sponsored by Viatris.

The bill would require Medicaid services to provide remote equipment and monitors to improve postpartum pregnancy and health outcomes. The bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

There is also growing evidence of a mental and physical health crisis caused by the pandemic, unrelated to the virus itself. Last year saw 40 states increases in opioid-related deaths – and the United States saw 100,000 overdoses in a year for the first time.

Cassidy and Cárdenas both said they are working to make prescription drugs for mental illness such as addiction more affordable and increase virtual medical access to mental health.

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