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Updates from Washington

People with Parkinson’s Need Access to Telehealth

Ask the MD: Living with Parkinson’s Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

For more than a year, providing the opportunity for people with Parkinson’s (and everyone) to see their doctors and other health care providers through telehealth means they were able to keep up with their appointments during a global pandemic shutdown. As part of the public health emergency declared by Congress last year, Americans now can use telehealth for regular and specialty medical appointments. But it’s not set up to last forever.  

Once the public health emergency ends, telehealth will not be available to Medicare beneficiaries as it is now, and that also will likely apply to those with private insurance. Telehealth will be limited to people in certain extremely rural geographic locations.

We need you to join us in advocating for legislation that keeps telehealth available to all Medicare beneficiaries.

Here is why The Michael J. Fox Foundation cares about this issue.

In 2020, to keep patients safe and decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus, Congress and the federal government expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth. The changes removed geographic restrictions. This meant people in any location could receive care at home instead of traveling to an appointment in an office. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also expanded the list of services and kinds of health care professionals who could use telehealth to see patients. Throughout the pandemic, those living with Parkinson’s disease have been able to use telehealth for routine check-ups, appointments with a movement disorder specialist that they perhaps would not normally see because they lived too far away, mental health counseling sessions and physical therapy appointments.

These telehealth flexibilities are only available due to temporary regulations in response to the public health emergency. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services renews the public health emergency status every 90 days. If the public health emergency ends and Congress did not pass legislation to keep the flexibilities, people will lose the ability to see their doctors, nurses, therapists and all their providers using telehealth. This is why we are urging Congress to pass legislation that makes telehealth permanent. There is a growing understanding in Congress about the need for continued and permanent telehealth access.

We need you to advocate with us. We need to keep this momentum going so that people with Parkinson’s can see their doctors and specialists using telehealth.

Throughout 2021, Congress will hold hearings related to telehealth, and they’ve introduced important and relevant legislation designed to keep telehealth as a permanent option.

This year was the first time ever that the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on this issue. One bill, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (S. 1512/H.R. 2903), proposes to make the pandemic-related telehealth flexibilities permanent and expand coverage of telehealth in Medicare. This legislation already has 50 Senators listed as co-sponsors, and that tells us they understand the importance of and many benefits of telehealth.

You can use your voice and share your personal stories about how difficult it is sometimes to travel even a short distance to see your doctor.  In doing that, you can urge your lawmakers to support and pass this legislation.

We can’t go back to the old way of doing things. Now is the chance to bring health care into the 21st century and keep telehealth as a way for you to see members of your health care team.

With your help, we can push this legislation over the finish line. Join us and advocate for S. 1512/H.R. 2903 by sending an email to Congress today.

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