Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, introduced bipartisan legislation to support primary care providers and improve health care in underserved and rural communities.
The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act establishes a federal grant program to support technology-based health care systems, similar to those developed by Project ECHO. The legislation was introduced by Reps. Luján, Michael Burgess (R-FL), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Deb Haaland (D-N.M), and Greg Gianforte (R-MT). A Senate companion bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Project ECHO is a successful telementoring system created at the University of New Mexico to improve health care in underserved communities by connecting local medical professionals with specialists for training to help provide the highest quality care. The model is now operating from more than 228 areas in 48 states and addressing more than 70 different complex conditions, including chronic diseases and conditions, infectious diseases, mental health, substance use disorders, and prenatal and maternal health. Providing new resources to expand telementoring for medical professionals will help connect rural communities across the country with the health care they deserve.
“Health care is a human right – and it should be accessible no matter where you live. The work that began at the University of New Mexico through Project ECHO has turned into a global movement that is changing the face of health care. Telemedicine is bringing care and treatment to places in the country – and the world – that for too long went without. I’m extremely proud to introduce legislation to invest in models building off the innovation and success of New Mexico’s Project ECHO. This important initiative is crucial to addressing health care disparities and ensuring high-quality health care for all communities,” said Luján.
“As a physician, I have sought to bring sensible legislation forward that is patient centered,” said Burgess. “Through the ECHO Act, the Department of Health and Human Services will be able to provide grants to strengthen the partnership between specialty care doctors and primary care doctors through technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models. This bill will help our health care workforce expand its knowledge and better serve our communities, especially in rural and underserved areas. The most effective way to ensure widespread access to care is by harnessing models that have proven successful during implementation on a smaller scale. This builds upon legislation Congresswoman Matsui, Senators Hatch and Schatz, and I introduced in the 114th Congress, and I am happy to see continued success of the ECHO model.”
“I want to express gratitude to Congressmen Luján and Burgess for their leadership in introducing this legislation,” said Dr. Sanjeev Arora, the founder and director of Project ECHO. “It represents a significant milestone in our collective effort to bring much-needed care to rural and underserved communities across the U.S. Much like the original ECHO Act of 2016, which became law in the waning days of the 114th Congress, it’s our hope that the continued strong bipartisan support for the measure will propel it through in the final days of this year.”