Press Releases

ICYMI: Virginian Pilot Runs LIBRE Op-Ed on the Need for Federal Telehealth Reform

Telehealth is the bridge between Latinos and urgently needed care  

ARLINGTON, VA—Over the weekend, The Virginian Pilot published an op-ed titled “Vulnerable Virginia’s can’t wait for needed telehealth reforms” by Michael Monrroy, Coalitions Director for The LIBRE Initiative-Virginia, a grassroots organization committed to empowering the U.S. Hispanic community. Read the full op-ed here.

The op-ed uses the success of telehealth since the pandemic and recently passed telehealth reform in Virginia as evidence to why Virginia’s congressional delegation should support reform at the federal level.

Below are some excerpts from the op-ed:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons. One of them is that we can’t go back to a health care system hobbled by burdensome limits on patient access to personalized care, especially for vulnerable populations. Topping the list of life-saving medical care is ensuring broad access to telehealth.

Here’s the proof. From June 2019 to June 2020, the number of Medicare enrollees who engaged in telehealth jumped from just 134,000 to more than 10 million — a stunning 7,400 percent increase. Individuals who use telehealth saw their monthly health expenses plummet 61 percent during the pandemic, according to a study co-authored by Americans for Prosperity and the Progressive Policy Institute.

An Urban Institute report found that Hispanic adults were significantly more likely to use telehealth for their health needs than white adults during the pandemic. Another study by Anthem concluded that Latinos used telehealth for mental health conditions at higher rates than other Americans.

Latinos lag behind other demographics in accessing preventive care. A United Health Foundation report concluded that Latinos often put off going to the doctor for regular checkups and often resort to emergency room visits when sick. That not only affects individual Latino families, but society more broadly by driving up health care costs.

But more needs to be done. Unfortunately, the important reforms at the federal level are limited to the COVID-19 health emergency. Unless Congress takes bold and decisive action, millions of Virginians — many of them Latinos or Hispanics — may lose access to critical health services when the federal government declares the crisis over.

We urge Virginia’s congressional delegation to support a number of vital, bipartisan bills now pending in Congress — the CONNECT for Health Act, Protecting Rural Telehealth Act, and the Telehealth Modernization Act. Taken together, these bills would allow Virginians on high-deductible health insurance plans to use telehealth as a pre-deductible service, while permanently removing geographic and originating site telehealth restrictions to ensure that Medicare recipients have access to virtual care at the location and setting of their choice. Virginians on high-deductible health insurance plans to use telehealth as a pre-deductible service, while permanently removing geographic and originating-site restrictions to ensure that Medicare recipients have access to virtual care at the location and setting of their choice. 

Failure to act will result in tens of millions of Americans — particularly our most vulnerable populations — losing access to care. We can’t allow that to happen.”

Read the full op-ed here.