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Telehealth's Popularity Drives Bipartisan Push To Keep Virtual Health Care

You can see the torso and hands of a doctor who is holding onto a smart phone. The doctor also has a white coat and blue stethoscope on. They have a blue, red and white checkered shirt on underneath the coat.
National Cancer Institute

Telehealth blossomed during the pandemic after lawmakers temporarily removed regulations on seeing your doctor via computer or phone. Now, federal lawmakers want to keep it that way.

Multiple bipartisan bills in Congress are aimed at helping Americans maintain access to telehealth. In rural places round the Mountain West, it’s come in handy. Even if people don’t have high-speed internet, they can call doctors over the phone.

Proposals include the Connect for Health Act and the Telemental Health Care Access Act. Kyle Zebley works with the American Telemedicine Association, and says these popular, bipartisan bills aren’t a sure thing, though.

“Obviously, the hurdles to action are high in Washington D.C. because of the way that things are very heated between the two political parties right now,” he said.

Zebley fears if lawmakers can’t figure out a way to pass these bills in the coming months, millions could lose access to remote care.

Frank Micciche is with the nonprofit National Committee for Quality Assurance. He says access to telehealth is important, but it’s also important to make sure people are still getting quality care.

“That’s the next frontier or the next chapter maybe in this story,” he said. “Getting data, accurate data, on exactly what’s provided by whom, to whom, in what settings and evaluating outcomes.”

That said, Micciche says telehealth was pivotal to providing care during the pandemic and he thinks it can help a lot of people in rural areas going forward.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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