Delegates Support Expanding Telemedicine, Financial Relief Programs
By David Doolittle

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As telemedicine expands because of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians at the American Medical Association’s Special Meeting of the House of Delegates approved a measure on Tuesday that called for telemedicine’s use to continue beyond the national public health emergency.

At the urging of the Texas Delegation, the measure includes language that supports increased funding and planning for infrastructure, such as broadband internet, to ensure more patients can receive health care via telemedicine.

“We feel every American deserves access to physicians, and the only way to achieve that is through broadband access,” Beaumont anesthesiologist Ray Callas, MD, testified.

The measure also calls for uniform state and federal laws, policies, and regulations and policies regarding telemedicine, including ensuring that devices contain “appropriate privacy and security protections.”

“Telemedicine is the practice of medicine … so we’re trying to make telemedicine another tool in a physician’s toolbox,” Dr. Callas said during his testimony. “Telemedicine should be the choice of patient and physician.”

TMA had pushed for an amendment that would call for all insurers to pay the contracted rate for a covered service provided to an enrolled patient. The choice to provide such services in-person or via telemedicine should be left to the patient and physician, TMA delegates argued.

However, that amendment was referred to the AMA Board for its decision at a later date.

Telemedicine has become almost ubiquitous throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-four percent of physicians who participated in a TMA telephone town hall in April said they began using telemedicine for the first time only after March 1.

To ensure practices continue to stay afloat financially during the pandemic, delegates also passed a measure that calls for improved and expanded federal stimulus programs, including:

  • Restarting the suspended Medicare advance payment program;
  • Expanding eligibility for the federal Provider Relief Fund;
  • Reforming the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure greater flexibility in how the funds are spent and lengthening the repayment period; and
  • Loan forgiveness for medical school debt.

Last Updated On

November 19, 2020

Originally Published On

November 19, 2020

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David Doolittle

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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