MIL-OSI USA: Klobuchar, Craig Urge Administration to Extend Access to Telehealth Services for Minnesotans

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US Senate News:

Source: United States Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn)

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Angie Craig (D-MN) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encouraging the agency to ensure Minnesotans can access telehealth services beyond the coronavirus pandemic. 

The legislators highlighted the popularity of telehealth services among Minnesotans and health care providers, noting that nearly one-third of patient visits in 2020 were via telehealth and almost 83 percent of providers surveyed reported that telehealth was meeting their patients’ needs. Pointing to these positive statistics, the legislators urged HHS to continue working with Congress and stakeholders “to ensure…providers have the certainty needed to provide continuity of care for patients and are adequately reimbursed for telehealth services.

Klobuchar and Craig also called attention to data showing that telehealth services increase access to health care for many, especially those in rural areas and people with transportation barriers. “Telehealth is also associated with decreased wait times for appointments, as well as improvements in patient attendance through declines in “no-show” rates and late arrivals. With these benefits in mind, more than 85 percent of providers surveyed by the Minnesota Department of Health who have used telehealth said they planned to continue providing at least some care through telehealth after the pandemic ended,” they added.

In February, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced legislation to enhance telehealth support for seniors and increase access to technology for “virtual visits” during the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Klobuchar and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) joined a bipartisan group of 30 colleagues calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries made during the coronavirus pandemic to be permanent.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Becerra:

We write to encourage efforts to ensure that Minnesotans can continue to access telehealth services after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

As you know, the federal government has taken steps to make providing and receiving care through telehealth easier during the coronavirus pandemic. As more patients and providers see the benefits of telehealth due to the increased utilization over the past year, it is important to consider how the delivery of health care can be improved through telehealth and telemedicine, and how these services can remain accessible beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Telehealth continues to be a critical service in Minnesota for many patients and doctors during this pandemic, and telehealth flexibilities offered by the federal government have improved the care provided to both rural and urban communities that have long faced barriers in accessing high-quality health care. Prior to the pandemic, just 3 percent of patient visits used telehealth in Minnesota. In 2020, that number rose to 28 percent. Our nation continues to face challenges in responding to the increased need for mental health services, and in Minnesota, mental health providers were found to be providing care via telemedicine or telephone at higher rates than other provider types. And to measure the effectiveness of such care, nearly 83 percent of providers surveyed by the Minnesota Department of Health during this pandemic also reported that telehealth was meeting their patients’ needs.

With the increased utilization, telehealth has been shown to increase access to health care for patients, communities, and vulnerable populations, especially people living in rural areas and people with transportation barriers. Telehealth is also associated with decreased wait times for appointments, as well as improvements in patient attendance through declines in “no-show” rates and late arrivals. With these benefits in mind, more than 85 percent of providers surveyed by the Minnesota Department of Health who have used telehealth said they planned to continue providing at least some care through telehealth after the pandemic ended.

For these reasons, we encourage your continued efforts in working with Congress and stakeholders to ensure patients can maintain critical access to health care through telehealth, and that providers have the certainty needed to provide continuity of care for patients and are adequately reimbursed for telehealth services. 

As your partners in Congress, we look forward to working with you to ensure that Minnesotans can continue to access telehealth services after the pandemic ends. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

 

MIL OSI USA News