The COVID-19 pandemic has elucidated many problems within the American health care system, chief among them the continuing access-to-care issue. Though the Affordable Care Act increased access to health insurance, the current pandemic has demonstrated that health insurance alone is not enough. Communities need access to health care providers. Indeed, many fully insured Americans across the country are experiencing what many have faced on a daily basis: the inability to access a health care provider Rural areas and communities of color regularly battle an inability to obtain care from health care professionals and have done so for many years. Much of the care demanded during the pandemic related to COVID-19 itself; but the pandemic also created access-to-care problems due to quarantines and shut-downs instituted to slow its spread. These measures have prevented millions from receiving necessary care for chronic diseases, simple injuries, and mental health needs, among others. Despite the tragic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the bright spots has been state and federal responses designed to increase access to health care providers. One of the most important mechanisms that governments have employed to increase access to care has been telehealth. Though telehealth has been possible for decades, the federal government and many state governments maintain salient legal barriers to its use. Congress recently considered the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2021, which seeks to remove some barriers to accessing telehealth. Against this backdrop of political hungerfor continued improvement in telehealth access, this Article explores the policy experimentation catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic to make specific policy prescriptions aimed at alleviating both acute and chronic access-to-care issues. It argues that, following the pandemic, federal agencies and states should continue to dismantle barriers to telehealth as an important toolfor increasing access to health care providers among residents of rural areas and communities of color that have historically lacked reliable access to providers. Importantly, governments at both levels should make permanent many of the temporary policies they have instituted to improve access to telehealth and, therefore, health care more generally.
Allyson E. Gold, Benjamin J. McMichael & Alicia Gilbert,
Socially Distant Health Care,
Tul. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.ua.edu/fac_articles/714