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Expansion of telehealth services needed
With all the changes 2020 has brought to us, it can be difficult to take a step back and see the silver lining.
One of the best changes we’ve seen stemming from the pandemic is the lessening of several government regulations, particularly when it comes to health care. As COVID-19 became a concern this past spring, Texas and the federal government made it easier for patients to use existing technology for telehealth.
The Texas Department of Insurance issued an emergency rule that ensured more access to telehealth, and we need to ensure much of the new rule is made permanent.
For at-risk individuals and families, remote health care is an efficient, cost-effective way to continue their care routine with little disruption. Patients need to be able to reach their provider, even if it’s not in person.
I want to see our state continue to work on expanding telehealth services to include additional providers, open up clear pathways for care across state lines from providers in good standing, and remove telehealth mandates that increase costs to patients.
Fortunately, Texas has a partner in the White House on this issue. In a decision made with the patient in mind, President Trump and his administration made several reforms related to making improved telehealth access permanent.
These reforms help older adults on Medicare utilize telehealth and put special emphasis on rural communities by making a commitment to expand broadband.
Being far from a major city can make access to care difficult, even in normal times. A major health crisis like COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. Families in Archer, Baylor, Clay, Foard, Knox, and Wichita counties deserve the same access to specialists and proper health care as people in Dallas or Houston and in an affordable manner. Telehealth can be part of the solution.
In my role as chair of the Human Services Committee, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of ideas of how to improve health care access, quality, and affordability. Telehealth is one of the best and most practical.
Telehealth can be offered anywhere, and care can be delivered for a fraction of the cost —savings that can be a game changer for the uninsured or under-insured.
With so much technology right at our fingertips, telehealth’s limits are only in our imagination. It’s surprising that it’s taken a global pandemic for patients to seek it out and for states to prioritize i — visits increased by 50 percent and are expected to exceed one billion this year.
It’s better late than never and should serve as a springboard for additional reforms that improve access to affordable care for all Texans.
We’ve been hearing often these past six months about a “new normal.” Masks, social distancing, and calling things unprecedented have become regular additions to our daily vocabulary. Many of the new normal activities and restrictions we hope we can eventually live without. Let’s enjoy that at least in one case, telehealth, the new normal may be beneficial to all involved.