Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteNebraska Republican tests positive for COVID-19 in latest congressional breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Maryland Democrat announces positive COVID-19 test MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedTom ReedNew York redistricting panel surrenders over impasse On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection 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.
“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 UptonThe fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump House Republican, Democrat say political environment on Capitol Hill is 'toxic' Sunday show preview: Omicron surges, and Harris sits for extensive interview 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 WydenTop Biden official says information classification system undermines national security, public trust Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule 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.”