By Naomi Lopez | Goldwater Institute
Lucas, a 35-year-old husband and father of three young daughters in Logan, Utah, faces a difficult decision whether or not to incur the costly expenses of a trip to Boston for follow-up and treatment for his rare cancer. bones.
For Lucas, it comes down to the trade-off between his health and his family’s financial future if he doesn’t survive.
What makes Lucas’ plight even more heartbreaking is that if he lived across the southern border of his state in Arizona, he might not have to make this heartbreaking decision.
During the pandemic, the federal government and states across the country have relaxed bureaucratic rules and red tape so that Americans can more easily access telehealth services, which allow patients to obtain high-quality medical care in comfort. from their homes using a computer, smartphone, or landline phone. Unfortunately, most states have failed to make these flexibilities permanent, pushing some of their most vulnerable patients off the telehealth cliff.
Last year in Arizona, the Goldwater Institute signed into law House Bill 2454, which passed with strong bipartisan support, making the state’s temporary telehealth relaxations permanent. The nation’s first legislation now allows out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth services, eliminating the requirement for pre-existing provider-patient relationships and allowing audio and/or video telehealth options, among other reforms.
The bill was built on the telehealth “proof of concept” success experienced both in Arizona and across the country — and it benefits some of the Grand Canyon State’s most vulnerable patients.
Take Claudia, for example. She spent six hours a day, twice a week driving her car, traveling back and forth across the Arizona desert from her home in Yuma, Arizona, to Phoenix to take her disabled daughter to regular appointments at a medical facility that could provide the care her daughter needed.
Thankfully, most of those long travel days now only happen once a month due to Arizona reform. Claudia’s daughter not only has access to top specialists, but most of her appointments can now take place from the comfort of their own home.
But this reform also promises to strengthen the ability of hospitals to access specialists, especially for hospitals serving smaller and rural communities. Arizona law provides an important avenue for medical facilities to rapidly scale up and down the expertise and assistance needed. For example, a patient with a severe stroke can now ask their community hospital, through remote monitoring, to share their vital statistics with a leading specialist at another facility across the country.
This means she can obtain medical advice that was previously unavailable due to unnecessary regulations restricting that access, as well as the prohibitive cost of bringing that expertise in-house.
There is a better way for patients like Lucas and the countless others who now face similar obstacles to get the care they need. The fundamental question at stake is: should government rules and bureaucracy prevent needed care? Arizona lawmakers didn’t think so and now that the government has removed these outdated laws and rules, Arizonans have more access to care in and out of state.
State legislators across the country have the ability — and the responsibility — to follow Arizona’s lead and put patients first. Thus, each patient, especially the most vulnerable, can have access to the care that best meets their needs with the technology and innovation already available.
These types of reforms allow patients and their families to focus more on their recovery while enjoying a better quality of life and reduced financial burden. American patients need an immediate emergency rescue from the inaction that has created the telehealth cliff.
Naomi Lopez is vice president of health policy at the Goldwater Institute.
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