Millions of Patients Now Able to Access Healthcare After Lifting of Telehealth Restrictions

Sep 4, 2020

Dr. Lommel preparing for a patient visit via Telehealth.
Credit J.T. Hydrick

On March 6, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. While it may not have garnered as much attention as the CARES act, its impact should not be overlooked.

“We can almost Mark the day in March when we found out we were able to launch more of a direct to consumer telehealth program. And, I will tell you, our team is very excited because now we can actually reach our patients in the home. We've been wanting to do this for quite some time. It's just a lot of the regulatory and reimbursement requirements limited that.” Said Dr. Karen Lommel of Prisma Upstate.

The passing of this legislation makes it so that physicians can expand their care in ways that previous requirements wouldn’t allow. It removes a large number of Telehealth Medicare requirements, such as requiring patients to be located in pre-designated areas, not allowing for insurance reimbursement at the same levels as in-person visits, and limiting the types of providers that could use telehealth, among others. These requirements effectively restricted access to healthcare for millions of Americans without many other options.

“We see what great things it has done for our patients. And so we really want to advocate to continue for these services to be covered. Our patients want the services to be continued and covered. So I think the biggest. The thing that will make this a success going forward is the continued support from our third-party payers.” Dr. Lommel continued.

However, these measures are only temporary and must be made permanent to have a truly meaningful impact.

“We're at kind of at a vulnerable place right now because the majority of these changes are tied to the public emergency declaration, which has to be renewed every 90 days… our doctors are in a tough place because looking towards the fall, there's kind of a disincentive or a challenge in scheduling your patients if you don't know where the reimbursement landscape is going to be in a few days… I think that the uncertainty surrounding the fact that it could all go away at any minute is very unnerving to providers and patients alike.” said Allie Dodd of the Medical University of South Carolina.

While legislators consider what path this legislation will take in the future, there are actions that everyday people can take to help put these changes in place permanently. Ryan Kruis of the Medical University of South Carolina explains.

“I think additionally, one of the things that's really important is that patients be telling their stories. Talk about the value that they've experienced in telehealth. Talk about the quality of care they've received, how it's made their lives more convenient, limited travel time, and how it's allowed them to maintain their regular healthcare maintenance needs.” Kruis said.

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