Thursday, March 5, 2020

APA Praises Congress for Passing Emergency COVID-19 Funding, Authorizing Lifting of Telemedicine Restrictions

APA is hailing a bipartisan $8 billion emergency spending bill approved by the Senate today to address the spread of COVID-19. The measure was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed by President Trump.

Among the bill’s provisions is one that will allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to temporarily lift restrictions on Medicare access to telehealth services, such as live videoconference consultations with physicians.

In a March 2 letter to leaders in the House and Senate, APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., urged Congress to take this action. “We recommend that these restrictions be waived, so that Medicare beneficiaries, who appear to be at particular risk of contracting COVID-19, may be ‘seen’ in the home via telepsychiatry and maintain their regular course of therapy without disruption,” Levin wrote. “This would also minimize future infections.”

APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., said in a statement APA released today that removing the restrictions will be especially beneficial to populations most susceptible to infection. “Telehealth and telepsychiatry in ordinary times can help more people access services that are critical to their well-being,” Schwartz said. “But it is especially important now, given the nature of COVID-19. Particularly for some groups, like senior citizens and other vulnerable populations, access to telepsychiatry and telehealth could be vital. We thank Congress for including this important provision in the funding package.”

In the statement Levin added, “Epidemics can cause people to experience stress and anxiety. Having tools and access to solutions like telepsychiatry, as well as clear communications from the media and government, will go a long way toward mitigating that stress.”

For additional APA resources on COVID-19, see the following:

A Message From APA on COVID-19

How Psychiatrists Can Help Patients During Coronavirus Outbreak

Coronavirus and Mental Health: Taking Care of Ourselves During Infectious Disease Outbreaks


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