Congressional Push to Permanently Expand Telehealth Services

May 31

Telehealth services became a crucial part of healthcare during the pandemic, allowing patients to meet with doctors from the safety and convenience of their homes. However, the expansion of federally funded telehealth visits is set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts.

Proposed Legislation of Telehealth Sevices

Key Highlights:

  • Legislative Push: Wisconsin Congressman Derrick Van Orden has introduced new legislation aimed at making the telehealth expansion permanent. This Republican-backed bill would amend the Social Security Act to allow federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to provide virtual care indefinitely.
  • Impact on Rural America: According to Rep. Van Orden, telehealth medicine has significantly improved healthcare access for people in rural areas, especially in his district in western Wisconsin, which has seen the closure of several big hospitals and adolescent mental health facilities.
  • Supporting Data: A study by the Wisconsin Health Information Organization showed that in 2020, 6.3% of doctor visits were virtual—a staggering increase of over 2,400% from the previous year. This highlights the growing acceptance and effectiveness of telehealth services.
  • Equitable Access: The same study revealed that 23% of telehealth users in 2020 lived in disadvantaged areas, underscoring the role of telehealth in removing barriers to healthcare such as transportation and mobility issues.

 Expert Opinions:

  • Briana Rockler, Assistant Professor of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, stated, “There are many times people go to the doctor, and the doctor doesn't even look at them physically; they just have a conversation. I think we learned that can be very effective.
  • Melissa Armstrong, Director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Graduate Healthcare Administration Program, added, “If this was something that wasn't working, I think we would see the numbers and the patient interest in tele[health] decline. And actually, what we're seeing is there's that boom.”

While there are limitations to telehealth—such as insufficient internet access for some patients—its benefits are clear. Telehealth promotes timely, equitable access to healthcare, particularly for rural and disadvantaged communities.

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telehealth, Telehealth Legislation

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