Release: State Senate Approves Bill to Expand Access to Sexual + Reproductive Care via Telehealth
SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 1023, a bill which would expand access to sexual and reproductive health services by ensuring coverage of telehealth, moved out of the Senate Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 24-5.
Authored by Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D., (D-West Covina), Senate Bill 1023 brings together new technologies and sexual and reproductive health care, such as hormonal birth control and STD testing and treatment, to improve access to these services.
“Technology is changing the way essential health services are provided and how patients can access them,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO, Essential Access Health. “In partnership with Senator Hernandez, Essential Access Health wants to reduce barriers to sexual and reproductive health care through innovative policy solutions. This means leveraging technology to meet people where they are, and in today’s busy world, that’s on their mobile phones.”
Phone, video consultation and mobile apps are valuable because they help eliminate geographic barriers to care and can improve access in rural and low-income communities. SB 1023 seeks to make the convenience of mobile telehealth for sexual and reproductive health care in reach for all Californians.
“Telehealth is a vital part of our health care system that increases access to care and lowers costs, especially in underserved areas. Right now in California, there are at least four websites or mobile apps that can be used to get tests for certain STDs and birth control, without an office visit. However, we’ve found that in some areas in the state, insurance coverage is limited,” said Senator Hernandez. “SB 1023 ensures that people seeking reproductive health care services, regardless of location, are not left behind.”
The California Department of Public Health issued a report earlier this month showing that rates of sexually transmitted diseases are at historic highs. If left undetected and untreated, STDs can lead to serious long-term health conditions including cancer, blindness, and infertility, and add significant costs and burdens to the state’s health system.
In addition, California has made significant gains in reducing unintended pregnancy rates over the past two decades, thanks to a combination of public policy and program innovations that have increased access to reproductive health care. However, California’s unintended pregnancy rates remain high and geographic and ethnic disparities continue.
SB 1023 does the following:
- Clarifies that Medi-Cal managed care and commercial insurers may cover sexual and reproductive health services that are provided appropriately through telehealth according to clinical guidelines.
- Requires Family PACT to provide appropriate sexual and reproductive health services through telehealth when appropriate according to clinical guidelines.
- Permits Family PACT providers to determine client eligibility and enroll clients in the program online.
The bill will now head to the Assembly for policy committee assignment.