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Telehealth lobbyists fear the abortion debate could erase the victory

POLITICO spoke with nine consultants and lobbyists who advocate on behalf of clients or businesses concerned with telehealth policy — such as employers, insurers, providers, health systems and telehealth companies — who said abortion issues could threaten the policy’s victory. Most will speak only if granted anonymity because of the divisive nature of the issue.

Although abortion services represent a small percentage of total telehealth services, consultants and lobbyists are also concerned that digital providers could become the next frontier in legal battles as patients in states where the procedure is illegal look for other ways to access it.

“Abortion has a long history as a contentious element in the debate about health care funding and financing, and this is likely to be even more true in the future. It would be very difficult to debate any health care issue without abortion rights,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Easing the rules

The federal government has waived dozens of care restrictions for virtual visits as the country grapples with special focuses on the Medicare program, such as reimbursing providers for telehealth versus in-person visits. Congress has extended that flexibility for 151 days after the public health emergency ends — which lobbyists believe will be early next year.

Lawmakers also suspended a law banning remote prescribing of controlled substances and allowed employers to offer pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services to people with high-deductible health plans — those that expire at the end of the public health emergency and in December. 31, respectively.

The race is on to keep up the pressure on Congress to extend the policy, which has been beneficial to providers and telehealth companies — even more important to avoid thorny questions about reproductive rights.

“We’re not taking our foot off the gas,” said Ilise Shuman, senior vice president of health policy at the American Benefits Council, of the group’s intense lobbying efforts to expand telehealth coverage provisions for people with high deductibles. plans. But its members do not talk about abortion.

“Employers are just trying to … get over it and understand the implications Dobbs“, he said and meant Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health OrganizationThe last decision that canceled Roe. “A lot of people are just trying to figure out what this really means for their policies and their benefit plans. Many more questions and answers may emerge in the coming weeks or months.

The pandemic has been a boon for those offering telehealth services, including the emergence of new telehealth companies and a vast expansion of offerings from providers. Swelling patient request. Although studies have shown that the use of telehealth has declined, it still does many times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

A Republican health care lobbyist said key lawmakers from both parties are Efforts to expand telehealth flexibility are reluctant to engage in the abortion debate because they are also focused on the benefits of telehealth’s larger policy goals. Because there is already a legislative framework — and momentum — to continue existing flexibility, the abortion mix-up could jeopardize bipartisan negotiations.

While there may be policymakers, both progressive and conservative, who want to use telehealth provisions to federally address abortion, “the people in the negotiating room on the telehealth compromise are not going to be interested in bringing that issue into the conversation,” he said.

“There is no discussion of merit”

Companies or providers involved in telehealth may not be able to avoid the abortion issue for long, however, as states move to protect or ban the procedure — while updating telehealth laws.

“If you’re helping a client, you’re telling them, ‘First of all, it’s not clear if you can avoid this. It is absolutely incomprehensible. Because the minute it’s brought up as part of a debate – that’s it, it’s over.’ So talking about anything during a negotiation won’t necessarily work,” said a 20-year veteran of the health consulting industry, who was granted anonymity to speak about client matters.

States that ban abortion do not make an exception if the provider is in another state, so some people may find it easier Telehealth appointment in a favorable position for abortion than finding a physical clinic. There was already a increase in demand To get abortion pills online.

“This is not a debate on the merits of telehealth. Everyone knows that telehealth increases access to health care services, whether it’s chronic disease management, mental health, post-acute care, primary care, specialty consultations or other services,” said Krista Drobak, CEO of Alliance for Connected Care. A coalition of companies and providers working to expand the flexibility of telehealth. “This is a debate about the enforcement of standards of care set by the state.” Medical providers are always required and required to follow the laws and standards of care established by the state where the patient is, regardless of where the provider is located. “

Telehealth advocates have long had to balance reproductive rights with the accessibility of telehealth.

One policy consultant who works with telehealth companies noted that states like Arizona and Florida, which have “really great” telehealth policies — including licensing waivers and favorable coverage provisions — have also moved to ban abortions. This is an example of the tension that exists for people working in telehealth as they balance their desire to advance their views on abortion and policies that expand telehealth.

“The struggle for people who are providing advice in this space, it’s a difficult needle to move because there are other critical health services – [medication-assisted treatment], contraceptive services. There are so many contraceptive deserts in Texas where telehealth is a game changer,” he added. “It’s a balance, it’s a tension that many of us had before this decision. And the question is, what is it now, right?”

Telehealth lobbyists fear the abortion debate could erase the victory

Source link Telehealth lobbyists fear the abortion debate could erase the victory

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