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Rep. John Curtis introduces resolution for Telehealth Week

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 23, 2021

Connor Richards, Daily Herald

U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks during a town hall at the Nebo School District administrative offices in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Connor Richards, Daily Herald file photo)

Telehealth was being used prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic and the necessity for some patients to connect with healthcare providers over the phone or computer has made Telehealth more important.

This week, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced a bipartisan, bicameral Telehealth Awareness Week Resolution alongside fellow member of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, and another fellow telehealth champion Rep. Bill Johnson, R-OH.

The resolution designates the week of Sept. 19-25 as “Telehealth Awareness Week.”

The resolution was introduced on the House floor on Sept. 20 and is currently on a fast track for a vote in the Senate.

Regulatory action taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., gave millions of Americans access to vital health care services. The 1135 Blanket Waivers issued by CMS in March 2020 allow health care providers to treat patients virtually — either by phone (audio-only) or through teleconferencing — and across state lines, which is a practice that regulators previously prohibited. These increased flexibilities resulted in over 24 million Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services between March 2020 and October 2020.

“This resolution sends a strong message to the American people that Congress is serious about finding bipartisan solutions to creating a more affordable and accessible healthcare system,” Curtis said. “I applaud my Senate and House colleagues for joining me in introducing this resolution that highlights the significant strides we have made in our telehealth infrastructure over the past several years.”

Curtis said he is looking forward to building off of these successes to ensure millions of Americans maintain access to these services, especially individuals living in rural communities that often lack healthcare options.

“This pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential. We saw telehealth services expand to deliver safe, high-quality, and cost-effective care during a time of crisis,” said Welch. “At the end of the day, telehealth helps our more vulnerable populations access critical health care, no matter where they live or how mobile they might be. These benefits shouldn’t have an expiration date.”

Welch praised the availability of telehealth, calling it, “essential virtual care.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in sponsoring this resolution to recognize Telehealth Awareness Week. In the past year-and-a-half, telehealth has to be an indispensable part of our healthcare system, easing the burden on strained hospitals and doctor’s offices, and helping at-risk Americans get necessary health care from the safety of their homes without interruption,” Johnson added.

As America recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said it is time to make responsible, permanent changes to telehealth policy going forward which would preserve access for the millions of providers and patients who have benefitted from this cost-saving, and potentially life-saving modern technology.

“The ATA (American Telemedicine Association) is grateful for the steadfast support of bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leaders — including Representatives John Curtis, Peter Welch and Bill Johnson, and Senators Brian Schatz, Roger Wicker, Ben Cardin, John Thune, and Cindy Hyde-Smith — as they issue a resolution recognizing the inaugural Telehealth Awareness Week during this pivotal time in healthcare. We are also honored to have more than 65 members of Congress, representing 34 states, signed on as Policy Champions of the Telehealth Awareness Week,” said Ann Mond Johnson, the CEO of the ATA. “With this historic momentum and the demonstrated value of telehealth over the past 19 months, it is imperative that Congress act on permanent telehealth reform to make permanent telehealth access a reality for millions of Americans.”

Since coming to Congress, Curtis has been an avid supporter of promoting access to telehealth services. In 2019, he introduced the bipartisan Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act that would give healthcare systems the ability to test new innovative approaches to telehealth care delivery. He now serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee.

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