Diabetes Caucus co-chairs say telehealth expansion to continue beyond pandemic
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Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteBipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 Overnight Health Care: Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as 'starting point' in new COVID-19 relief talks | Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand | Federal government partners with pharmacies for coronavirus vaccine distribution MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.) said Thursday that Congress’ expansion of telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to become permanent.

Virtual health visits have seen rapid growth in popularity during the pandemic as patients seek to avoid hospitals. Congress passed the CARES Act in late March, which dedicated funds for telehealth expansion and strengthened access to telehealth for Medicare recipients.

DeGette and Reed, the co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, said at The Hill’s Diabetes and the COVID Threat event that the expansion has been critical to maintaining safe care for diabetes patients, who are up to 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 if they are infected.

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“This crisis has sent the message to all of America that, you know what, telemedicine is a thing of the present, it is not a thing of the future and it will be with us going forward,” Reed told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

Reed called the forced telehealth expansion one of the “silver linings” of the pandemic, adding that there will also be “policies that are going to help diabetic patients, as well as other patients when it comes to access to care using technology.”

 

DeGette said she and Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP lawmaker to Trump: Drop election argument 'for the sake of our Nation' Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Republican Michigan congressman: 'The people have spoken' MORE (R-Mich.) are working to include a “jumpstart for telemedicine” in their Cures 2.0 bill, which will follow the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 that funded medicine development.

The remarks from DeGette and Reed come the same week that Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Alcohol industry ramps up pressure on Congress for tax relief MORE (D-Ore.) released a proposal to make the telehealth expansion during coronavirus permanent, giving Medicare recipients the option to use telehealth for commonplace medical visits and mental health services.

Earlier in Thursday’s virtual event, which was sponsored by the National Diabetes Leadership Council and the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, several physicians said using telehealth has made a huge difference in the lives of diabetes patients.

“We know that most of the diabetes care can be done through telehealth — at least three of the four visits a year can be easily through telehealth,” said Satish Garg, a professor at the University of Colorado’s Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes.

He said he hopes insurance companies will continue to pay for telehealth visits, which several major insurers agreed to do temporarily in March.

“The genie's out of the box,” Garg said. “We have to find a way to make it available going forward, otherwise, patients are not going to like coming in person.”