As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, taxing the resources of U.S. health systems as they stretch to manage the probability of more COVID-19 patients, the American Telemedicine Association and other healthcare organizations are calling on Congress to help.
WHY IT MATTERS
In a recent letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and other Congressional leaders, the ATA – along with HIMSS, the eHealth Initiative, Health Innovation Alliance and Personal Connected Health Alliance – has asked Congress to make money from the COVID-19 supplemental appropriation available for more telehealth services.
The groups are also asking for an accompanying provision that would give Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar the authority to waive the restrictions on telehealth visits during a public health emergency currently imposed by Medicare.
THE LARGER TREND
Congress should provide the Trump Administration with “as many tools as possible” to give healthcare professionals support they need, according to the letter. “The telehealth restrictions currently in place for Medicare run the risk of slowing access to care for seniors in this critical time.”
Congress should consider Sec. 9 of the CONNECT for Health Act of 2019 in the upcoming COVID-19 supplemental legislation, the groups said, enabling HHS to waive telehealth restrictions for Medicare beneficiaries during national emergencies, expanding the array and reach of technologies that could provide care to those in need.
ON THE RECORD
“Access to care is an essential barrier to addressing public health crises, and telehealth can play a critical role by offering a safe and cost-effective means of identifying and responding to public health needs,” according to the letter.
“Many telehealth providers are already playing a key role in combating this public health emergency, enabling the timely and effective treatment of patients in quarantine and at home with telehealth and virtual care technologies,” officials said. “Telehealth can improve access to care, speed diagnosis and treatment, and limit the risk of person-to-person spread of the virus,”