Rare Bipartisan Congressional Support for Greater Access to Virtual Medicine
What’s Going On
A controversial president’s lingering policy legacy may have found bipartisan agreement in Congress — specifically, its telemedicine policies.
Once implemented as a stop-gap measure to address continuation of care during a pandemic, Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle are coming together to make telemedicine permanent.
For example, a Hawaiian senator’s proposed legislation to make telemedicine changes permanent — S. 1512 (117) — has attracted no fewer than 59 co-sponsors!
Supporters point to data for decreased no-shows and equal efficacy of virtual visits compared to traditional sessions.
However, the Congressional Budget Office seems to believe the convenience of telehealth, particularly ending geographic restrictions on care, may add too much money to the cost of care. It also worries over the increased potential of fraud and the burden of maintaining an interstate technology grid.
In the meantime, well over half of local states have decided to keep the local adjustments to their medical plans indefinitely. And, Congressional leaders believe at the very least, their flexible telehealth allowances will continue for the next year, as the nation wraps up its fight against Covid-19.
Why This Matters
It’s rare that Congress unites so strongly around even popular topics of legislation. (See the current ruckus raised over basic infrastructure improvements.)
That makes their recent moves to standardize Medicare and Medicaid’s approach to telehealth surprising, to say the least — even as telehealth services continue to enjoy great demand post-Covid.
Recent survey data released from McKinsey & Company show that after an April 2020 spike in telehealth, the use of remote technologies to support healthcare has stabilized — at 38 times its pre-pandemic levels.
For providers, Congressional support of Medicaid reimbursement of telehealth opportunities makes investing in a remote, simple tech stack that much more appealing.
It also indicates a dramatic change in the healthcare community paradigm. “My profession can’t go virtual” is no longer a valid excuse for avoiding the basic integration of telehealth services within a practice at every level: From the local, independent practitioner to the national clinic franchise.