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Illinois coalition pushes bills to protect telehealth

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By Lily Bohlke

CHICAGO — A new coalition, composed of more than 30 leading health-care and patient-advocate groups across Illinois, is supporting bipartisan legislation that would reduce barriers to virtual health care for residents.

Danny Chun, spokesperson for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which is a member of the Coalition to Protect Telehealth, pointed out while COVID-19 has highlighted the need for virtual health care, there have always been barriers to in-person visits.

“Such as lack of transportation, geographic distance from a provider, especially in rural areas of Illinois, not wanting to take a day off from work and losing your wages,” Chun outlined.

During the pandemic, both the Illinois and federal governments have issued waivers allowing for the expanded use of and reimbursement for telehealth, enabling hospitals and physicians to make the needed investments in technology and office setups.

Chun hopes by passing House Bill 3498 to protect access to telehealth, the General Assembly will keep that going.

The bill would ensure insurance companies treat telehealth the same as in-person care for payment and coverage, as well as prohibit both geographic restrictions on telehealth services, and any requirements to prove hardship or an access barrier.

Chun noted hospitals and community-based behavioral health-care services with telehealth options have seen large increases in the number of visits with patients compared to before the pandemic, and many are reporting fewer missed visits.

“Without this legislation, after the public health emergency ends, and the state and federal government waivers expire, then we go to what the situation was pre-pandemic in Illinois,” Chun projected.

Illinois does offer some limited Medicaid coverage of telehealth services, but does not require parity with in-person care.

The Coalition hopes the legislation will empower patients now and beyond the pandemic.

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