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Trump right to push to make telehealth permanent part of Medicare program

It is said necessity is the mother of invention, and while it’s true telehealth — think of it like a Zoom meeting with your doctor — wasn’t invented during the COVID-19 pandemic, its use has increased exponentially since the coronavirus really turned our world upside-down in March.

It makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Not only is it safer for both the doctor and the patient, as they don’t have to be within the same physical space as one another, it is also a time and money saver, as patients don’t have to drive to and from the doctor’s office or hospital nor use the resources necessary to make that happen — no small feat for many in rural areas like the Juniata Valley where people may live 30, 40 or even 50 or more minutes of driving from their medical care providers.

President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order that clears the way for Medicare patients in rural areas to use telehealth as a means of safely and cost-effectively getting the care they need. The order aims to expand the kinds of services that can be provided via telehealth including emergency room visits, nurse consultations, and speech and occupational therapy.

It also was very clearly intended as a call for Congress to act to make telehealth a permanent part of Medicare going forward, even after the pandemic has run its course and the public health emergency has ended.

We stand with the president on this and believe this issue should enjoy broad bipartisan support.

Not only is telehealth an effective tool, it’s also very popular. The Associated Press reports that in the last week of April, 1.7 million Medicare recipients relied on telehealth when the pre-pandemic level was only in the thousands.

We are aware it’s an election year, which typically means very few things of note get accomplished barring a supermajority from the same party as the president. But anyone who opposes this plan will have to explain to their constituents why they stood against something so broadly agreed upon as good for all involved, if it wasn’t for purely political reasons.

Congress — specifically Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are most likely to try to stop this to deny Trump a legislative victory — needs to do its job by putting its constituents’ needs ahead of their political ambitions and making telehealth a permanent part of Medicare.

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