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States Shouldn’t Push Americans off the Telehealth Cliff

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Public Advisor
Naomi Lopez is the Director of Health Care Policy for the Goldwater Institute, where she leads the Institute’s efforts to implement federal and state health care reforms that benefit all Americans. She has 25 years of experience in policy and her work focuses on a broad range of health care issues, including the Right to Try, off-label communications, pharmaceutical drug pricing, supply-side healthcare reforms, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and 21st-century health care innovation.

When the pandemic took hold in America, policymakers in Washington and governors across the country realized there was a dire and urgent need to reduce face-to-face medical interactions to limit potential virus exposure and to direct the limited medical personnel to the most urgent medical cases. As a result, the federal government and states across the country relaxed government rules and red tape to make telehealth more readily available, giving Americans faster and easier access to many forms of healthcare. By using their telephone, tablets and computers, more Americans could get the care they need.

But with several of those states on the verge of sunsetting these regulation relaxations, and the federal reforms set to expire once the public health emergency ends, we’re now standing on the precipice of a “telehealth cliff.” That’s terrible news for any American seeking medical care — but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Removing these obstacles has been good policy during the pandemic and it will remain so once the pandemic is in the past. And Americans seem to agree: From mental health support to speech therapy to chronic condition coaching, telehealth enables Americans to access needed care from the comfort of their own homes. It’s no wonder, then, that telehealth visits skyrocketed during the pandemic; according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telehealth visits were 154 percent higher in the last week of March 2020 compared to the previous year. One recent poll found that more than four in 10 Americans had received treatment or advice via telehealth “in the past few months,” and of those, more than eight in 10 expressed satisfaction with the experience…

Telehealth holds enormous potential for healthcare access, and while there are no magic bullets to healthcare reform, both congressional and state lawmakers across the nation should embrace and build upon reforms like Arizona’s in order to realize the potential of innovative, patient-centric medical care using already-available technology and communication. This is exactly the kind of bold thinking and action that state lawmakers across the country have the authority — and obligation — to embrace and pursue.

Read the full article in The Hill.

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