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Bipartisan senators call for making telehealth expansion permanent post-coronavirus

Bipartisan senators call for making telehealth expansion permanent post-coronavirus
© Greg Nash

A group of 30 senators from both sides of the aisle on Monday urged leadership to make permanent the expansion of telehealth services that has been undertaken during the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' Why pretend senators can 'do impartial justice'? MORE (D-N.Y.) calls for provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act included in previous COVID-19 legislation be extended after the public health emergency is over.

“Americans have benefited significantly from this expansion of telehealth and have come to rely on its availability,” said the lawmakers led by Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzFor platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Senate Democrats rebuke GOP colleagues who say they'll oppose Electoral College results 11 Senate Republicans say they will oppose Electoral College results Wednesday MORE (D-Hawaii) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWall Street Journal: GOP Electoral College 'stunt' will hurt US, Republican Party Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Southwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief bill MORE (R-Miss.). “Congress should expand access to telehealth services on a permanent basis so that telehealth remains an option for all Medicare beneficiaries both now and after the pandemic."

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Telehealth has grown in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as a safer alternative to in-person visits.

The services help doctors work with patients diagnosed with COVID-19 without putting themselves at risk.

It also helps providers care for high-risk patients who might contract the disease if forced to leave their homes for medical visits.

Advocates say enhanced telehealth capabilities could result in improved service with lower fees even beyond the pandemic.

"Doing so would assure patients that their care will not be interrupted when the pandemic ends," the senators wrote. "It would also provide certainty to health care providers that the costs to prepare for and use telehealth would be a sound long-term investment.”