For more than 46 million people who live in rural areas, a growing healthcare crisis is looming as more than 600 rural hospitals across the United States stand at risk of closing. While ensuring healthcare access for these remote but critical communities has long been a challenge, the growing prevalence of telehealth in recent years has extended a necessary lifeline as access to “brick-and-mortar” care declines.
As a nation, we have reached a critical decision point on whether we make it easier or harder for these communities to access the care they need. In Washington , a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a promising proposal in the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2023. Designed to ensure access to telehealth services for those with high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts, the bill would allow employers and health plans to cover telehealth visits without requiring people to meet their deductibles.
We have seen this flexible policy in action, and that it can be successful, thanks to provisions put in place by the CARES Act. Its expansion of telehealth has helped families maintain access to affordable, virtual care services on a pre-deductible basis throughout the pandemic. This has enabled health education and interventions typically provided in person to start at the moment they are needed, without compromising care due to fear of high costs, deductibles, or matters of convenience.